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How sleep disorders affect your health


We spend eight hours out of every 24 hours sleeping -- 1/3 of our lives!

Whatever happens during those eight hours of sleep can strongly influence many aspects of our health, for better or for worse.

Eight hours of normal, uninterrupted sleep helps the body recover from the events of the 16 hours spent awake.

But eight hours of sleep apnea can have very harmful effects on the heart, brain, and some other organs and systems of the body, as well as causing daytime sleepiness and a loss of vitality that robs a person of the normal joys of living.

How Does Sleep Apnea Harm the Heart?

In sleep apnea, breathing stops and starts many times during sleep. Each of these episodes is an apnea event. Apnea events may occur hundreds of times during the night without the person knowing it.

Sleep apnea causes the heart to beat irregularly. Each time breathing stops, the heartbeat slows down and the rest of the body receives less oxygen.

This decrease in oxygen then causes an automatic emergency reaction: the heart races, and the nervous system reacts with a “fight-or-flight” response, causing stress hormones, such as adrenaline, to circulate throughout the body as the person awakens to breathe.

The awakening from each apnea event is very brief – so brief that the person usually is not aware of waking up, but the body responds to the apnea event as though it is a breathing emergency – which it is!

Untreated Sleep Apnea Can Cause Serious Heart Disease

Patients with untreated apnea events are at much greater risk for major heart failure, first heart attack, atrial fibrillation (rapid heartbeat), and coronary artery syndrome. These are the conclusions of a very large research project, the Sleep Heart Health Study, which studied more than 6,000 people.
The more severe the sleep apnea is, the greater are the chances of dying from heart disease or cardiovascular disease.chances-of-dying

Sleep Apnea Can Cause or Aggravate High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common in people with sleep apnea. Hypertension results from the repeated “fight-or-flight” response that accompanies each apnea even throughout the night. This response makes the heart work harder, and also causes increases in blood pressure that can actually last into daytime.

Sleep apnea is very common among people with hypertension – 1/3 of men with hypertension also have sleep apnea. And the converse is also true – half of the people with sleep apnea also have hypertension.

If you have hypertension, ask yourself and your healthcare provider whether it is possible that you may have sleep apnea. If you have unrecognized sleep apnea and are taking blood pressure medication, your medication may not work very well until the sleep apnea has been treated.

Sleep Apnea Contributes to Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (narrowing or blockage of the arteries that nourishes the heart) is high among people with untreated sleep apnea. Narrowing of the coronary arteries reduces the supply of oxygen to the heart muscle, and this can cause a heart attack. Hypertension plus the stress of apnea events are among the causes of coronary artery disease. Untreated sleep apnea increases the chance of death from heart attack.

Sleep Apnea and Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Increase the Risk of Strokes

Hypertension is the most common cause of strokes. Sleep apnea is a major cause of hypertension. Strokes are more frequent among people with untreated sleep apnea than in normal or treated sleep apnea patients.

Strokes can also result from a decrease in the supply of oxygen to the brain, which occurs with each apnea event.

Sleep Apnea Contributes to Congestive Heart Failure

Sleep apnea contributes to the development of heart failure, a condition in which the heart has been weakened and cannot pump blood efficiently. Heart failure may be the result of hypertension or coronary artery disease or other illnesses.

Sleep apnea can worsen any of these conditions. However, after the sleep apnea has been treated, the heart failure may improve or disappear.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Diagnosis Requires Specialized Equipment and Expertise

You should make an appointment with a sleep disorders specialist if you suspect

you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Diagnosis requires highly specialized equipment and an all-night sleep study to measure the quality of your sleep and detect signs of a sleep disorder. A sleep specialist will interpret the results of the sleep study and discuss your treatment choices with you.

Other healthcare providers may suggest treatment options, such as surgery or oral appliances. A sleep study is still required prior to surgery to determine whether you actually have sleep apnea and, if so, the cause and the level of severity, and a baseline for later comparison to find out if the treatment has been successful.

Sleep apnea treatment without consulting a sleep specialist can lead to serious errors, especially when surgery is involved.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea Can Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

Effective treatment of sleep apnea eliminates the apnea events that cause increased risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result of treatment, the high risk of death from cardiovascular disease may decrease to nearly normal.

Healthy Sleep, Healthy Heart, Healthy Life

Treatment of sleep apnea allows the individual to enjoy normal, restful sleep. As a result, most sleep apnea people find that they are more awake, alert, and energetic than they have been for years. They are now able to live a fuller and healthier lifestyle.

Don’t waste your time, your health, and your life with sleep apnea. See a sleep specialist now.

Sleep and Diabetes

  • Research has shown that 75% of Americans have a sleep disorder symptom a few nights per week or more.
  • The majority of people with a sleep disorder remain undiagnosed.

About Sleep

Sleep is a period of rest for the brain and the body. However, it is not lost time. It is a time for the brain and body to be restored and rejuvenated. Sleep is essential for energy, learning, memory, growth, preventing illness, and overall health and well-being.

Nearly everyone needs between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night for good health. Many of us average less than the recommended amount. Some of us get poor quality sleep, which may be due to an underlying sleep disorder.

You may have a sleep disorder if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Snoring or waking up gasping for breath
  • Not feeling rested or refreshed after sleep
  • Tossing and turning during sleep
  • Twitching or restless legs at night
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Unusual behaviors during your sleep

Sleep disorders may leave you feeling tired or fatigued during the day and affect your ability to concentrate and make decisions. They can also increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, and motor vehicle accidents.The good news is most sleep problems are treatable. Treatment can help you improve your sleep, health and quality of life.

About diabetes

  • 20.8 million adults and children in the U.S. have diabetes.
  • 6.2 million people with diabetes remain undiagnosed.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy your body needs to function.

The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although genetics and factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. We do know, however, that certain sleep disorders can worsen diabetes.

Some of the initial symptoms of diabetes may include:
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Blurry vision

Testing for this condition is usually simple and there are many treatments available to help you control your diabetes. Treatment varies from person to person, but may involve changes in diet and use of medication. Controlling your diabetes may lower your risk of health complications and help you live a long, healthy life.

About sleep and diabetes

  • Sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, may interfere with control of diabetes.
  • Adults who get less than the recommended amount of sleep may not have adequate control of normal sugar (glucose) levels.
Sleep problems are common in people with diabetes. For instance, more than half of all people with diabetes also have sleep apnea (a frequent closing of the throat while sleeping).

Some symptoms of sleep apnea may include:
  • Snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up gasping for breath
  • Long pauses in breathing during sleep
Several research studies have shown that sleep apnea is related to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which may increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Sleep apnea can also add to the physical problems caused by diabetes. For example, the risk of getting heart disease or stroke increases in those with untreated diabetes and sleep apnea. Vascular disease (problems with arteries and blood circulation) is also more common in people with both disorders.


  • Research has shown that treating your sleep disorder may improve your diabetes care.
  • Most insurance plans cover the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.
Diagnosis of a sleep disorder is usually simple and effective. It includes a comprehensive assessment of your health and symptoms and may require an overnight sleep study to monitor what happens while you sleep.

There are many treatment options available and recommendations will vary based on your diagnosis.

Some treatment options may include:
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Positive airway pressure therapy (PAP)
  • Medications
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Oral appliances
Recent studies have shown that treating sleep apnea improves insulin sensitivity. In patients with type 2 diabetes, treatment can lead to a significant drop in hemoglobin A1c levels.

By treating your sleep disorder, you may also notice:

• Feeling more awake and alert during the day
• Increased motivation
• More energy during the day
• A greater sense of well-being
• Improved relationships
• Deeper, sounder sleep

If you are having trouble sleeping or suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact your doctor or a sleep specialist for an evaluation.

Sleep study

If a sleep study is required, it is usually conducted at a facility called a sleep center. A sleep study, or polysomnogram, measures your brain wave activity, eye movements, muscle contractions, heart activity, breathing and blood oxygen levels during sleep.

The sleep study itself usually begins in the late evening and ends about 6:00 AM. A specially trained sleep technologist remains awake to monitor your sleep from another room.

Before you go to sleep, the sleep technologist places a number of non-painful sensors on your head, chest, and legs. These sensors transmit information to the sleep monitoring equipment for later analysis.

For patients suspected of having sleep apnea, the sleep study may include a treatment called positive airway pressure (PAP). The PAP device provides a steady stream of air through the nose and/or mouth to help you breathe better while you sleep.

After your sleep study, a sleep specialist analyzes the information and sends a report to your referring or primary care physician.

The next step

Your doctors are an excellent resource for answers to your questions about sleep problems and diabetes.

The team at Sleep HealthCenters is available to work with you and your doctor to develop and provide an integrated and personalized long-term treatment program for your sleep disorder.

Whether your doctor recommends visiting us for a sleep study only or to coordinate your entire treatment plan, our board certified sleep specialists and clinicians will ensure your doctor is provided with study results and progress updates after each visit.

Services Offered:
  • Consultation with a board-certified sleep physician
  • Diagnosis and treatment of the full array of sleep disorders
  • Treatment options including PAP, behavioral therapy, oral appliances and medication when appropriate
  • PAP counseling with certified respiratory therapists
  • Follow-up visits to review progress of treatment
Successfully treating your sleep disorder may enhance your quality of life. We commonly hear comments like these from our patients:

“I cannot tell you how much better life is. I have more energy; I am not tired during the day anymore.”–MC

“It’s wonderful to be able to finally enjoy a peaceful and restful night sleep.”–PMG

“The physicians and technicians at Sleep HealthCenters have transformed my adult life…I am grateful beyond words.”–HA

If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor or call us at 877-753-3742.

Sleep and OBESITY

The Facts . . .

  • 77% of people with a BMI greater than 35 have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Weight loss results in significant improvement in obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Weight loss impacts the use of CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) and must be managed appropriately.

Why has my doctor ordered a sleep study?

Sleep Apnea (SA) is very common in people who are overweight. People with SA often have snoring and repetitive closures of the throat while sleeping which impairs normal breathing. Finding and treating SA can help you lose weight, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (like hypertension, heart attacks and stroke), lower the risk of Diabetes and even reduce automobile accidents (by improving alertness). It may also help with insurance reimbursement if you decide to proceed with gastric surgery. Lastly, treating OSA before and after gastric surgery is thought to lower surgical risks and improve the outcome of surgery.

What happens during a sleep study?

First of all, there is no pain or discomfort.  A sleep study simply measures your breathing, brain waves, body movements, and oxygen levels while you sleep.  A number of sensors are place on your skin or outside your bed clothes.  The study usually begins in the late evening and ends about 6 am.  You have your own private bedroom, with most having an attached bathroom and shower.  If you need anything during the night, simply call the technologist on the intercom and they will be right in to help.  About 700 pages of data are collected on the computers during a typical sleep study.  This information is then scored and interpreted by the sleep specialists.

First of all, there is no pain or discomfort.  A sleep study simply measures your breathing, brain waves, body movements, and oxygen levels while you sleep.  A number of sensors are place on your skin or outside your bed clothes.  The study usually begins in the late evening and ends about 6 am.  You have your own private bedroom, with most having an attached bathroom and shower.  If you need anything during the night, simply call the technologist on the intercom and they will be right in to help.  About 700 pages of data are collected on the computers during a typical sleep study.  This information is then scored and interpreted by the sleep specialists.

What if I have sleep apnea?

If sleep apnea is discovered during the sleep study, your doctor may want you to begin treatment that night. Treatment includes an air pressure mask (CPAP) that is placed over the nose. A low pressure of air keeps the throat open and prevents sleep apnea in most cases.

I’ve had my sleep study, now what?

What happens now depends on what happened during your sleep study.
  • If you used the air pressure mask (CPAP) during the last half of your sleep study, then you will most likely be scheduled to see a respiratory therapist in the sleep clinic (during the daytime) to get your CPAP device and begin using it at home, each night, during your sleep.
  • If you did not use the air pressure mask (CPAP) during the last half of your sleep study, you will either
    • Not need treatment for sleep apnea, or
    • Need to return to the sleep clinic for another sleep study.
Most patients are also scheduled for a daytime appointment to see a sleep specialist who will review the sleep study results with you and help determine a treatment plan.

Please note: If you are not certain about the next step in your treatment and have not heard from your doctors, please call 877-753-3742.  (keep in mind that it usually takes 2 weeks to process the results of a sleep study).

I have a CPAP device and mask, how long do I need to wear it?

CPAP is designed to be used during sleep. Ideally, you will use it whenever you are sleeping (realistically, most patients average about 6 hours each night). If you have trouble using it all night, please contact the sleep center as a sleep specialist will likely be able to help you.

The odds are in your favor! Most obese patients who reach their goal weight after surgery will no longer need treatment for sleep apnea. Some patients will be able to stop using CPAP before they reach their goal. However, please speak with your doctor before stopping CPAP on your own. Another sleep study may be performed to verify that the sleep apnea is gone.

Will this interfere with, or postpone, my surgery?

Most likely not, however, if you feel that there might be a conflict, please call the weight management program or the sleep clinic as soon as possible.

Wonder if you have sleep Apnea?

Take our free online quiz HERE to see if you are at risk for sleep apnea or start the process of diagnosis with a home sleep test HERE!


of Americans have a sleep disorder symptom a few nights per week or more.

Severe Sleep Apnea raises the risk of early death by


is the increased risk of having a stroke in untreated Sleep Apnea Patients.

Loud snorers are at greater risk of suffering from high blood preasure than non-snorers by


of people with a BMI greater than 35 have obstructive sleep apnea.


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