Loud snoring can be a source of comedy, or a serious impediment in an otherwise healthy relationship. Even worse, loud snoring may be indicative of a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea stop breathing during sleep, resulting in poor sleep quality and low blood oxygen levels. Sleep apnea should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Over the long term, untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of these serious health problems.
A growing body of research shows a direct link between obstructive sleep apnea and an array of cardiovascular health problems. According to the experts at the National Sleep Foundation, the problems start when breathing stops during sleep. The resulting low blood oxygen level prompts the brain to increase the flow of blood to the brain and heart by “tightening up” the blood vessels. The resulting high blood pressure, or hypertension, is lined to stroke, irregular heartbeat, and heart attack.
To restart the breathing process, the brain forces you out of the sleep state. However, this cycle of breathing cessation, waking, and breathing resumption means that a person with obstructive sleep apnea doesn’t stay asleep long enough to enter REM sleep, the deepest and most restful level of normal sleep. As a result, people with sleep apnea live in a state of chronic exhaustion, which leads to sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, anger, depression, anxiety, and problems regulating the emotions.
In March 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reported a study that found that people who suffer from sleep apnea are almost 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident in which they are the driver (when compared to a control group from the general population). Excessive sleepiness results in poor concentration, poor decision-making, and poor response times, all of which increase the risk for vehicular accidents. The same study found that people who stick to a sleep apnea treatment plan experience a 70% reduction in the incidence of road collisions.