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The Danger of Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea

Lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep have been linked not only to absentmindedness and accidents, but also to serious health risks such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. More than ever, Americans are sleeping less and suffering because of it. Of the many reasons you may be sleep deprived, one of the most dangerous is sleep apnea.

If you are among the 22 million Americans suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea,1 your sleep may be punctuated by loud snoring, snorts or choking sounds that result from periodic disruptions to your breathing. Depending on the severity of your condition, these breath interruptions may occur just a few times — or hundreds of times — an hour. During these moments without breath, your brain and the rest of your body is literally being starved of oxygen.

Typically, normal breathing starts again as you gasp for air, resulting in the loud snorts or choking sounds often reported by your sleep partner. While most people consider snoring to be a normal occurrence, or a source of entertainment given the funny noises associated with it, sleep apnea is no laughing matter.

It is a serious health disorder that can be dangerous, and even life-threatening, when untreated. Notably, an estimated 80 percent moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed.2 If you think you or someone you love may be suffering from sleep apnea, take action today to pursue a diagnosis and treatment. In doing so, you will be on your way to a better night's sleep and significantly improved health.

The Importance of Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,3 lack of sleep is a major public health problem, and insufficient sleep has been linked to a wide range of health problems. After reviewing more than 300 studies to determine how many hours of sleep most people need to maintain their health, an expert panel concluded that most adults need around eight hours per night to function well. Children and teenagers require even more.

About 1 in 3 Americans gets less than seven hours of sleep a night, and more than 83 million adults in the U.S. are sleep-deprived.4,5 If you work long hours, have a sleep disorder or spend a lot of time in front of your computer, phone or TV, chances are you may be getting five or fewer hours of sleep per night. Such little sleep can trigger a wide range of health repercussions — from an increased risk of accidents, weight gain and chronic diseases, to reduced sex drive and decreased sexual satisfaction.

It's important to note the time you spend in bed is rarely equal to the time you actually spend sleeping. You may want to use a tracking device to better understand the quantity and quality of your sleep. If you do you will find on good nights you will not be sleeping for 30 minutes and on bad nights it could be two to three times that or more.

Sleep also plays an important role in in memory formation, and sleep dysfunctions such as sleep apnea have been shown to accelerate memory loss. While I previously disregarded the value of sleep, rarely getting more than five or six hours each night, I now typically average more than eight hours. After changing my habits, I have come to appreciate sleep's value in supporting my overall health and longevity.

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