The Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Scientific research has directly linked untreated sleep apnea to a myriad of cardiovascular and metabolic health complications. While this information may be unsettling for some, the scariest part is that you might not even know that you have the problem. In fact, data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that 80% of the people with any form of sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.
In this article, we have included medical-backed data that details the health complications that one is likely to face if they remain with untreated sleep apnea. We will also suggest the best remedy for sleep apnea and highlight why you should add VirtuClean 2.0 to your sleep apnea therapy routine.

Types and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):The most common form of sleep apnea, OSA, happens when breathing is momentarily cut off by relaxing soft tissues in the throat. This blocks or narrows the airway, causing difficulties in air passage.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea:This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send accurate signals to the muscles that control your breathing. As a result, you will repeatedly start and stop breathing while sleeping.
  3. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome:This sleep-disorder is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

All forms of sleep apnea have similar symptoms. These include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Snorting or gasping
  • Sore throat or coughing
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia/sleeping difficulties
  • Headaches upon waking
  • Irritability and depression
  • Memory problems
  • Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Need to sleep with the head raised
  • Mood changes

The Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Besides leaving you tired in the morning, sleep apnea can trigger several health complications. Fortunately, you can solve most of these health problems with properly administered CPAP therapy, along with the use of a reliable CPAP sanitizing device like the VirtuClean 2.0.

Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure

A number of studies suggest that sleep apnea and high blood pressure are a dangerous pair.
According to a 2017 study in the International Journal of Hypertension, untreated sleep apnea is a high cardiovascular risk factor for hypertension patients.

Unfortunately, 30-50% of high blood pressure patients have sleep apnea. This is especially common for patients with resistant hypertension who have tried many high blood pressure treatments unsuccessfully.

Sleep Apnea and Stroke

A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine warns that untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke by up to two or three times.
Additionally, the American Stroke Association notes that not only can sleep apnea be an aftereffect of stroke, but this disorder can also cause a recurrent or first-time stroke.

    • How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Stroke?

Sleep apnea causes high blood pressure and low oxygen levels. When low oxygen levels in the blood persist, the sympathetic nervous system discharges gushes of stress hormones, which raise the levels of blood pressure and fluctuate the heart rate. When these ongoing conditions during sleep remain untreated over time, they cause systemic complications with a heart arrhythmia condition (atrial fibrillation) and high blood pressure (hypertension). Atrial fibrillation and hypertension are the top risk factors for sleep apnea induced strokes.

Sleep Apnea and Heart Attack

Based on a study from the Yale School of Medicine, having sleep apnea increases your risk of heart attack or even death by 30% over a timeframe of four to five years.
Another 2013 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people with sleep apnea face a higher risk of dying from related cardiac conditions. According to this study, sleep apnea increases the chances of sudden cardiac death and is more likely to happen if:

  • You are 60 years or older
  • Your blood oxygen level is less than 78% during sleep.
  • You have 20 or higher apnea episodes per hour when sleeping

Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease

In addition to increased risk of heart attacks, sleep apnea can cause or worsen other heart conditions.According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm) and sleep apnea have as little as 40% chance of requiring further heart treatment if they address these two conditions. However, should sleep apnea remain untreated, the possibility of needing additional treatment for atrial fibrillation rises by 80%.

Another 2010 medical review from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine notes that up to 60% of heart failure patients have sleep apnea. Yet, heart attack patients who received treatment for sleep apnea had a better 2-year survival rate than adults who did not receive treatment. This means that when you adequately address your sleep apnea, you significantly decrease your chances of dying of heart failure in your sleep.

  • How does untreated sleep apnea worsen heart disease?
    Sleep apnea causes a low oxygen level in the body (Hypoxia). As a result, your body gets stressed and counters with a fight-or-flight response, leading to a faster heart rate and narrowing of the muscles.
    The heart and vascular effects of this include:

    • A higher heart rate
    • Higher blood pressure
    • Higher blood volume
    • More stress and inflammation

    All these effects heighten the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

According to a study run in the YaleNews, sleep apnea is linked to type 2 diabetes. This study found that adults with sleep apnea run more than double the risk of getting diabetes compared to those who don’t have sleep apnea.

  • How can Untreated Sleep Apnea Cause Diabetes?
    Obstructive sleep apnea patients suffer from intermittent hypoxia and other pathophysiological effects that alter glucose metabolism and promote insulin resistance. Since the two control diabetes, it follows that untreated obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
    On the other hand, treating obstructive sleep apnea can improve your glucose homeostasis and, in turn, cut down your chances of having diabetes or reduce its severity.

The Relationship Between Sleep Apnea with Depression and Anxiety

Research shows a connection between lack of sleep and depression, both of which share risk factors of increasing either condition uniquely. Although some people might experience onset symptoms from these conditions at the same time, others experience sleep deprivation before depression.

While some studies tie sleeplessness to depression, an earlier report from PubMed shows that insomnia associated with sleep maintenance, such as sleep apnea, has the highest correlation to anxiety and depression.

Additionally, a newer study reported that 46% of people with obstructive sleep apnea had depressive symptoms.

Relationship Between ADHD and Sleep Apnea

Medical professionals have suggested that ADHD can have some of the same signs as sleep apnea.

According to a Pediatric sleep apnea in ADHD study by the American Sleep Apnea Association, up to 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD may also show symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. The study goes on to say that most of their behavior problems and learning difficulties could be a result of chronic, fragmented sleep.

Another study reported by the NCBI notes that obstructive sleep apnea may contribute to ADHD symptomatology. These two studies show that treating sleep apnea can have favorable effects on the symptoms of those living with ADHD.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Headaches?

Headaches upon waking are a common symptom of sleep apnea. Actually, physicians believe that 50% of people who regularly wake up with headaches have sleep apnea.
According to a study published by The Journal of Headache and Pain on the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and headaches, 20.4% of the participants who had untreated sleep apnea reported morning headaches.
Sleep apnea headache symptoms include:

  • Recurrent headaches in the morning
  • A headache which resolves within four hours
  • Morning headaches that occur at least 15 times a month
  • Headaches with a pressing quality where the pain is experienced on both sides of the head and is not associated with photophobia, sensitivity to sound, or nausea.

Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea FAQs

In addition to the conditions that we have just discussed, untreated sleep apnea can also have other side effects. Below we have addressed some of the most common questions regarding sleep apnea and what happens when someone with this condition chooses not to treat it.

Is Untreated Sleep Apnea Progressive?

A new study published in the journal SLEEP shows that untreated sleep apnea can have progressive effects on the brain. According to this study, obstructive sleep apnea patients demonstrated reduced gray matter concentration, which is the cerebral cortex where most of the brain’s processing information takes place. OSA-induced poor sleep quality and brain damage can result in poor memory, decreased cognitive functioning, emotional problems, and increased cardiovascular disturbances.

However, the use of CPAP therapy can stop progressive brain damage in people with severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Can Sleep Apnea in Children Have Long-Lasting Cognitive Effects?

In a study by John Hopkins, researchers showed a link between childhood sleep apnea and brain damage and lower IQ. This is the first study to report neural changes in the brains of kids who have severe and untreated sleep apnea and shows that children with the disorder suffer damage in two of the brain structures associated with learning ability.

Although untreated sleep apnea does have a connection to learning problems, memory deficits, and cardiovascular complications in both children and adults, researchers point out that untreated apnea is more likely to do worse damage in children than adults.

Can You Have Sleep Apnea Without Snoring?

While the most common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring, not all people with sleep apnea snore. Similarly, snoring is not always an indication that you have sleep apnea. Snoring could, at times, be as simple a problem as nasal congestion, large tonsils, or a sinus infection.

Can Sleep Apnea Effect Muscles and Joints?

Although there’s a need for more investigation on the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and muscle and joint pain, some studies have associated non-restorative sleep with aches, anxiety, overexertion, and poor physical health. In fact, one study on Arthritis and Rheumatology notes that restless sleep is the sole top predictor of pervasive pain onset among people over the age of 50.

If Sleep Apnea is Untreated, Does it Cause Fatigue?

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of sleep apnea. This is because when you stop breathing, your body sends a signal to the brain, causing you to wake and open your mouth to breathe again. When your body keeps on constantly waking itself, you don’t get to go through the full four-stage sleep cycle that includes deep, restorative stages where your body can abundantly rest. This results in a lack of energy and an increase in exhaustion.

Can You Reverse the Effects of Sleep Apnea on the Brain?

Yes, you can reverse sleep apnea-induced brain damage.According to a Neuroimaging study published in the Journal SLEEP, patients who use CPAP therapy can successfully reverse the white matter damage triggered by severe sleep apnea.

What Can You Do to Minimize the Effects of Central Sleep Apnea?

Research shows that those who exercise regularly and avoid smoking and alcohol can minimize the effect of central sleep apnea. Smoking increases inflammation and fluid retention in the throat and upper airway and, therefore, contributes to sleep apnea. Other things to avoid are sedatives and sleeping pills, especially before bedtime, since they relax throat muscles and interfere with breathing.

However, those who are still experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea should consider CPAP therapy. CPAP technology has proven to be the leading treatment for sleep apnea, and this, combined with a suitable CPAP mask cleaner like the VirtuClean 2.0, can relieve your symptoms while keeping you safe from further CPAP illnesses.

What is the Most Effective Treatment for Sleep Apnea?

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is the most reliable treatment for sleep apnea. During sleep time, patients wear a nasal or face mask connected to a pump that provides positive airflow into the nasal passages to keep their airway open.
Although some patients receive a prescription for dental appliances to treat mild sleep apnea, they are not as effective as CPAP masks and don’t work for everyone with obstructive sleep apnea.

Is CPAP Therapy Effective for All Types of Sleep Apnea?

While CPAP therapy does not cure obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it does relieve the symptoms. Without treatment or upon discontinuation of therapy, the symptoms can be severe and can make other health conditions unbearable. To make sleep apnea therapy with your CPAP mask effective, you need a dependable CPAP mask cleaner and sanitizer. Additionally, getting a CPAP disinfector like the VirtuClean 2.0 from will keep you safe from common CPAP mold-associated health issues like coughs, pneumonia, pneumonitis, acne, allergies, and respiratory infections; making your efforts to sleep better even more successful.

CPAP Therapy is the Best Sleep Apnea Treatment

To relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea, your airway has to be kept open during sleep. You can achieve this by using a medical device that delivers continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
As you sleep, you wear a CPAP mask that’s connected to the main device by tubing which delivers pressured air. A CPAP machine solves sleep apnea problems by blowing air into the throat through a mask, gently increasing air pressure and preventing the airway from narrowing.

CPAP machine users enjoy multiple benefits, including:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced daytime fatigue
  • Lower risk of heart diseases and other medical conditions
  • More concentration
  • Reduced snoring

How to Make CPAP Therapy Work for You

When you’re looking to buy a CPAP machine, there are a few things you need to do to make your treatment effective.
First, the seal over your airways needs to be tight enough to allow continuous air pressure from the machine. CPAP machines come in different variations ranging from nasal to full face masks, and it is vital that you try a few of the available options to see the style and shape that fit your face comfortably.

It is also advisable that you look for a machine that has a humidifier since the airflow from your CPAP can dry your nose and mouth. Fortunately, many models today come with built-in heaters to warm and moisten the air.
Finally, proper care and maintenance are crucial for you to get the most out of your machine. When not cleaned regularly, a dirty CPAP can harbor germs, which can make you sick.
Common dirty CPAP illnesses include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Pneumonitis
  • Cough
  • Airway irritation
  • Skin irritation

To add to your CPAP machine’s life and avoid health conditions that are caused by a dirty machine, you should wash your mask daily or after each use, and clean the headgear at least weekly or biweekly.

VirtuClean 2.0 is the Best CPAP Cleaner

One of the most effective CPAP cleaners, VirtuClean 2.0, uses Ozone (activated oxygen) to kill up to 99% of germs and bacteria in your CPAP device’s tubing, mask, and humidifier chamber.
The VirtuClean 2.0 weighs only 0.5 pounds, making it one of the most portable CPAP cleaning solutions, and comes with a rechargeable battery to ensure that you can clean your CPAP anytime without having to rely on a source of power.

Additionally, to help you keep track of your cleaning schedule, the VirtuClean 2.0 has a handy feature to keep you updated on:

  • The total number of cleanings performed
  • Times you’ve cleaned your equipment over the last seven days
  • The total number of hours that the device has been in use

Buy or learn more about the VirtuClean 2.0 CPAP mask cleaner and other CPAP device sanitizers for all sleep apnea machine models on our website

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