If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been known to cause cumulative health risks. Stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s and dementia have been associated with the condition when it’s left alone. A recent study, however, has found that even a few nights without a treatment device increases the metabolic stress that a person with sleep apnea endures.
Put more simply, these studies found increased blood sugar, fat levels, stress hormones, and blood pressure, which correlates with what we know about the comorbidities of sleep apnea. Previously, most studies on sleep apnea were gathered during the day when participants were awake, so only the aftermath of the condition’s effects on the body were obtained.
Researchers drew blood samples every 20 minutes to measure changes in the bodies of the 31 participants, who all had moderate to severe sleep apnea and a history of regular CPAP use. After just a few nights without a device to control sleep apnea, the participants experienced an increase in plasma free fatty acids, glucose, cortisol, and blood pressure.
So, what does an increase in these metabolic functions really mean for sleep apnea sufferers?
High levels of free fatty acids and glucose: Can contribute to diabetes.
High levels of cortisol: Can also contribute to diabetes, as well as weight gain, mood swings and depression, and a weakened ability to fight infection.
High blood pressure: Can contribute to cardiovascular disease, as well as strokes and mild cognitive impairment.
The immediate increase in free fatty acids, glucose, cortisol and blood pressure (all of which worsened based on the severity of the condition) proves the necessity to treat sleep apnea effectively and with special consideration for consistent adherence to the method of treatment. For patients intolerant to CPAP therapy, the condition became even more important to treat with other methods. To learn more about the common symptoms of sleep apnea, check out one of our other blogs.
Oral Appliance Therapy as a CPAP Alternative to Treat Sleep Apnea
Oral appliance therapy is the preferred treatment method for many patients that cannot or will not use a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea. In fact, an estimated 20-80 percent of apnea patients fail to adhere to their CPAP treatment over the long-term.
A few benefits of oral appliances include:
- Non-electric (does not have to be hooked up to the wall)
- Travels well
- Custom-built for each patient
If you’ve looked into the symptoms and think you or a loved one has sleep apnea, the most important thing to do is to visit a sleep physician and get a sleep study. A sleep study is typically performed in a lab or, depending on your situation, may be able to be completed in the comfort of your own home.
Dr. Kent Smith of Sleep Dallas has more than 20 years experience treating patients with sleep apnea, sleep disordered breathing, and persistent snoring. He can help you understand which treatment option will best treat your condition and eliminate or significantly reduce its associated health risks. Schedule a free consultation today.