The Effects Of Sleep Apnea
Because of the serious disturbances in their normal sleep patterns, people with sleep apnea often feel very sleepy during the day and their concentration and daytime performance suffer.
The consequences of sleep apnea range from annoying to life-threatening. They include depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory difficulties, and falling asleep while at work, on the phone, or driving. It has been estimated that up to 50 percent of sleep apnea patients have high blood pressure. Although it is not known with certainty if there is a cause and effect relationship, it appears that sleep apnea contributes to high blood pressure. Risk for heart attack and stroke may also increase in those with sleep apnea. In addition, sleep apnea is sometimes implicated in sudden infant death syndrome.
In its 1992 report to the U.S. Congress, the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimated that 38,000 fatal heart attacks and strokes in the United States each year are due to apnea.
It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of the population has some sleep apnea, and half of those cases are clinically significant. In other words, at least 20 percent of the people walking in to see their family physician have a dangerous level of apnea. The number of doctor visits attributable to apnea is probably much higher, because apnea causes a wide range of health problems that force people to see their doctors. One of the most common problems is extreme fatigue, since apnea sufferers' actual quantity and quality of sleep is very low.
It is suggested that family practitioners catch fewer than 1 or 2 percent of their patients with apnea. Even those with the most flagrant symptoms are rarely identified.
Some Consequences of Untreated OSAS
(Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine)
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