Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition. Complications may include:
Cardiovascular problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. About half the people with sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which raises the risk of heart failure and stroke. The more severe the obstructive sleep apnea, the greater the risk of high blood pressure. Patients with sleep apnea are much more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation. If there’s underlying heart disease, these repeated multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event.
Daytime fatigue. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may have difficulty concentrating and find themselves falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. Children and young people with sleep apnea may do poorly in school, have reduced mental development or have behavior problems. Treatment of sleep apnea can improve these symptoms, restoring alertness and improving quality of life.
Complications with medications and surgery. Obstructive sleep apnea also is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications after major surgery because they’re prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Before you have surgery, tell your doctor that you have sleep apnea. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation.
Sleep-deprived partners. Loud snoring can keep those around you from getting good rest and eventually disrupt your relationships. It’s not uncommon for a partner to choose to sleep in another room. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or feelings of depression, and a need to urinate frequently at night (nocturia).
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