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Treating Sleep Apnea Provides Six Key Benefits

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You’ve been told you snore or stop breathing during sleep but you’ve been putting off visiting the doctor because you don’t want to hear that you have sleep apnea. The face mask of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may not coordinate with your jammies, but getting help for your breathing issues can have a huge benefit to your health.

“Getting enough sleep — meaning seven to nine hours a night — is hugely important for your health and sleep apnea can keep you from getting the sleep you need,” said Mark Reploeg, MD, medical director of the Samaritan Sleep Medicine Program.

Sleep apnea and other forms of sleep-disordered breathing are characterized by stopping breathing for a short time and briefly waking before beginning to breathe again. The body experiences lower oxygen levels and you may feel sleepy during the day.

The State Medical Society of Wisconsin estimates that sleep apnea affects 15 percent of the U.S. population. Forget your stereotypical overweight middle-aged man; Dr. Reploeg reports that sleep apnea can affect a wide range of people and postmenopausal women are especially under-diagnosed.

“If you have been told you snore, feel sleepy during the day and have trouble concentrating or with your memory you may need to talk to your clinician about a sleep disorder,” said Dr. Reploeg.

Once you’ve addressed the sleep apnea, here’s how your health will improve:

1. Better Sleep Refreshment

People with sleep apnea stop breathing up to 90 times an hour. With each pause the body wakes a little before resuming breathing, which can keep you from getting enough deep sleep to feel refreshed the next day. Once your body can breathe easily all night, Dr. Reploeg reports you can expect to feel better rested and have more energy during the day.

2. Lower Risk of Heart Problems & Stroke

The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study (WSCH) found that the incidence of hypertension was nearly three times greater in those with a severe number of sleep disturbances compared to those with no disturbances. The incidence of stroke was 4.5 times greater in those with severe sleep disturbance.

3. Reduced Risk of Depression

As the severity of sleep disturbances increased, the WSCH found that the risk of depression also increased. Any amount of sleep disturbance was associated with an increased risk, but the incidence rate of depression for those with severe disturbances was 2.6 times higher than those with no disturbances.

4. Lower Risk of Mortality

The risk of dying from any cause was three times higher in those with severe sleep disturbances according to the WSCH.

5. Better Management of Diabetes

Having sleep apnea puts you at higher risk for developing diabetes. An analysis of multiple studies published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society found that treating sleep apnea led to better insulin resistance in those without diabetes. Several studies have found that those with diabetes and untreated sleep apnea have worse control of their blood sugar.

6. Lower Risk of Cancer

Results from a cohort study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that those with obstructive sleep apnea had a higher rate of cancer. The most commonly diagnosed cancers were colorectal, prostate, lung and breast. Those affected were men and people under age 65.

To improve your health, get help for your sleep apnea.

“A CPAP machine is the gold standard for sleep apnea treatment, however there are other options like oral appliance therapy and surgery,” said Dr. Reploeg. “Diet and lifestyle changes can also have a big impact in helping to manage the condition long term. The most important thing is to talk to your doctor to find out what’s right for you.”

Talk to your doctor about your sleep concerns and getting a referral to Samaritan’s Sleep Services.

Read more articles about sleep by Dr. Reploeg.