If you have been told that you snore loudly, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor. Snoring is a sign of a dangerous sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.
Of course, not all snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. However, loud or intense snoring is one of the main signs. Sleep apnea is much more serious than simply snoring. In fact, some of the side effects of sleep apnea can be detrimental to your health or even deadly.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts your breathing while you sleep. There are a few different types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This occurs when the tongue, soft palate, and esophagus relax too much and block your airway. The obstruction can cause snoring, but it mainly causes you to stop breathing.
Troubles with Your Heart
When you stop breathing, your blood oxygen levels drop. Blood oxygen levels indicate how much oxygen is circulating in your body. One of the reasons your heart pumps is to move oxygen through your body. If they drop too low, they can damage your heart and brain.
With obstructive sleep apnea, your body has to fight to get oxygen all throughout the night. This is because you can stop breathing up to hundreds of times a night. When your blood oxygen levels drop, your blood pressure goes up. It rises because your heart has to pump harder. Unfortunately, this can put a strain on your heart. As a result, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Along with high blood pressure, patients with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of stroke, irregular heartbeats, and sudden death.
Diminished Immune System
It is abnormal for your body to stop breathing without conscious thought. Therefore, your body perceives not breathing as a threat. Additionally, your body undergoes great amounts of stress when you stop breathing. Because of this, your body releases stress hormones—cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol and adrenaline help you move faster and make decisions more quickly when you are in danger. However, your body doesn’t know the difference between an external threat and a sleep disorder. Your body should only experience these hormones in short bursts. So, a chronic condition like sleep apnea can cause problems for your immune system.
If your body undergoes too much stress, it begins to affect your immune system. Over time, your body becomes less efficient at protecting itself from illness and infection. Patients who live with untreated sleep apnea long-term are more likely to become sick. Additionally, they have a harder time fighting off infections and recovering from illnesses.
Your body needs sleep to reset and recharge. Without proper sleep, your brain cannot function properly. This means lack of sleep and rest can begin to affect your memory, emotions, and concentration. As a result, you may find that you are more forgetful, more susceptible to mood swings, and less likely to focus at work or school.