Sleep apnea, which is a type of sleep disorder, is characterized by infrequent or shallow breathing when someone is sleeping. Sleep apnea is an abnormal behavior that is common among the human population. Cases of this condition are high because it is hard for people to know when they are suffering from it. Individuals with sleep apnea are rarely aware whether they have had sleeping difficulties when they wake up. Sleep apnea can only be recognized by someone who is present when an individual with this condition is sleeping.

Health dangers of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can aggravate into various medical conditions that are dangerous to our health. These include:

• Cardiac diseases

Many people with this condition experience regular heart attacks and other heart conditions. It’s normally caused by the low supply of oxygen, which makes it difficult for the brain to regulate the blood flow in heart arteries.

• High blood pressure

Sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure in people who are suffering from it. Waking up at night frequently leads to an overdrive of hormonal systems and thus resulting in high blood pressure levels.

• Obesity

Obesity is common in people with sleep apnea. Its due to the weight gain that is accompanied by the condition. Sleep apnea causes impairment in the endocrine body system, which further leads to the release of a hormone that increases carbohydrate cravings. Additionally, people with sleep apnea normally have a lower metabolism, a big contributing factor to weight gain.

• Diabetes

Diabetes is very common in people suffering from sleep apnea. In fact, research shows that more than 70% of people with sleep apnea have diabetes and especially Type 2 diabetes. Its linked to the insulin resistance caused by lack of sleep.

Risk factors for sleep apnea

Anyone can be affected by sleep apnea, and this includes children and adults. But there are certain factors that put people at a higher risk of suffering from this condition. Some of them are:

• Use of tranquilizers, sedatives, tobacco and alcohol

People who use these substances risk getting sleep apnea because such substances relax throat muscles. Smokers are at a higher risk because smoking increases fluid retention in the upper parts of the body.

• Family background

People from family backgrounds of members who have suffered from sleep apnea normally are at a higher risk.

• Male gender

Recent statistics have shown that men are usually at a higher risk of getting sleep apnea.

• Breathing difficulties

People who experience difficulty breathing through the nose are more likely to develop sleep apnea, regardless of whether caused by allergies or anatomical problems.

• Old age

People who are more than 65 years of age have a higher risk—especially when there are other risk factors involved.

Remember that sleep apnea can be treated. If you suspect that you might be suffering from it, you can learn more about treatment here on our Sleep Apnea page.