4 Serious Medical Conditions That Are Closely Linked to Sleep Apnea
The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered normal routines for millions of people in the United States, and CPAP users are no exception. In fact, individuals who suffer from sleep apnea should be even more diligent when it comes to social distancing and other measures meant to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
This is because many people who rely on a CPAP machine to sleep soundly through the night fall into one or more “at risk” groups for more severe — or possibly even fatal — outcomes from COVID-19.
Such dire situations aren't necessarily the result of sleep apnea itself. Rather, they stem from the other serious medical conditions that often occur in tandem with sleep apnea. The interruptions to sleep that occur throughout the night raise the risk of developing serious health problems, and can worsen some pre-existing conditions.
Many of these medical concerns can be mitigated by using a CPAP machine and following other recommended health guidelines. By taking these necessary steps, you can reduce your risk from diseases such as COVID-19 and enjoy a higher quality of life.
1. Cardiovascular Disease
Sleep apnea is a known contributor to many heart health problems. This occurs because your body’s oxygen level drops when you stop breathing. This causes the body to release the stress hormone adrenaline. The body also increases blood flow in an effort to keep oxygen flowing to the vital organs.
When interruptions to your breathing occur constantly throughout the night, this heightened state of stress lasts for hours on end. This causes high blood pressure, which in turn leads to a host of additional cardiovascular problems.
As just one example of how closely connected sleep apnea and heart disease are, the Harvard Medical School reports, “The sleep disorder is found in 47 percent to 83 percent of people with cardiovascular disease, 35 percent of people with high blood pressure, and 12 percent to 53 percent of people with heart failure, atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm abnormality), and stroke. Researchers estimate that untreated sleep apnea may raise the risk of dying from heart disease by up to five times.”
Cardiovascular disease already greatly increases the risk of early death on its own, but it also compounds the threat posed by COVID-19. Some reports indicate that the novel coronavirus further inflames the heart muscle, increasing the risk of heart attack and congestive heart failure. In fact, it is estimated that the COVID-19 mortality rate for individuals with heart disease is 10 percent as opposed to one percent for generally healthy people.
The more severe your sleep apnea, the greater your risk will be for heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias, and other potentially fatal issues. In addition to sleep apnea therapy, those at risk for cardiovascular disease should make a conscious effort to participate in regular exercise and eat a healthy diet. Limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and finding healthy ways to manage stress will also lower your risk.
2. Type 2 Diabetes
Sleep apnea increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea has been found to increase glucose intolerance and insulin resistance because of the nighttime interruptions to breathing raising the blood’s carbon dioxide levels. As a result, the body experiences higher blood sugar levels than it would normally.
The fatigue that so many with sleep apnea experience can also counteract the proactive lifestyle changes that people with type 2 diabetes need to make to better control their condition. Cleveland Clinic notes, “Inadequate rest or sleep can also lead to lack of motivation to exercise or plan meals. This often leads to irritability, which can affect relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Sleepiness also can cause people to forget to take their medications and lead to further diabetes complications.”
As with heart disease, diabetes has been linked with more serious outcomes from COVID-19. Data from Utah reveals that one out of every four patients that has been hospitalized in the state due to the coronavirus also had diabetes as a pre-existing condition. This makes it the area’s most common underlying condition associated with COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea tend to form a vicious cycle, with both conditions causing the other to worsen over time. Individuals must be proactive in mitigating both health issues. In addition to using a CPAP machine, those who have already been diagnosed with both sleep apnea and diabetes should closely adhere to additional medical treatments suggested by their doctor. As with heart disease, exercise, weight loss, and quitting smoking can also reduce the risk for more serious complications.
The fatigue and irritability that result from a lack of sleep can eventually take a serious toll on your mental health. In fact, a recent study linked obstructive sleep apnea with major depression and many of its symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness and “feeling like a failure.” These results even surprised the researchers, who expected the symptoms to be limited to a lack of energy and trouble sleeping.
When you can’t enjoy uninterrupted sleep, you don’t get the mental and emotional renewal needed to start the day off right. The fatigue makes it harder to manage day to day tasks or stay focused. Sleep deprived individuals become more irritable and more likely to lash out at others, even over relatively minor matters.
Depression and anxiety are surprisingly common among individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with one study finding that 46.1 percent of patients had depressive symptoms and 53.9 percent had “some degree of anxiety.”
While depression and anxiety don’t necessarily increase your risk of dying from COVID-19, these mental health challenges can make it more difficult to deal with the constant barrage of negative, alarming news. People are increasingly reporting feelings of fear and anxiety in recent weeks. Whether they are scared of contracting the coronavirus or feeling the effects of social isolation, these feelings of depression can significantly disrupt normal routines and will lead to further health complications.
Using a CPAP machine to control sleep apnea is just one element of getting depressive symptoms under control. Avoiding the use of alcohol or sleeping pills can also help fight depression. If you have serious, persistent symptoms of depression, contact a medical professional to determine if therapy or additional medications can help.
4. Additional Breathing Disorders
While sleep apnea is technically defined as a sleep disorder, it is also in many ways a breathing disorder. So it should come as no surprise that it has been connected with other breathing disorders that can disrupt your daily life and increase your susceptibility to COVID-19.
Among the other breathing disorders that have been linked to sleep apnea are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Individuals who suffer from one of these conditions in addition to sleep apnea have what is referred to as “overlap syndrome” — in which individuals ultimately experience breathing problems during the daytime and at night.
Sleep apnea actually worsens asthma symptoms by causing acid reflux during sleep, which irritates the airways and increases the risk for an asthma attack.
While the understanding of COVID-19 is constantly evolving, one thing that has remained consistent is the knowledge that it primarily infects the body’s respiratory system. It leads to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which can make it impossible for patients to breathe on their own. Needless to say, if you already suffer from other breathing disorders, your risk for these severe outcomes greatly increases. Individuals diagnosed with these conditions should be extra cautious in following social distancing measures.
Because these respiratory conditions can be so complex and the severity can differ dramatically from patient to patient, it is essential that you consult with a medical professional regarding the best treatment plan. Using a CPAP machine to manage sleep apnea and following other treatment guidelines will help you breathe easily at all times.
Contributing Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea — and COVID-19
If you suffer from sleep apnea, your best course of action is to use a CPAP machine. By preventing interruptions to your breathing during the night, a CPAP machine will help you stave off many of the complications that result from untreated sleep apnea. You will be healthier and also feel better rested, so you’ll have the energy to continue participating in the activities you love.
It is worth noting that many of the risk factors that increase one’s risk for developing sleep apnea can also play a role in your susceptibility to COVID-19. Some of these risk factors are beyond your control, such as old age or being male. Individuals with a family history of sleep apnea are believed to be at higher risk because of their genetics.
However, there are other factors that are within your control. For example, smoking is a known contributor to obstructive sleep apnea. Quitting smoking will reduce your risk for this condition, as well as more serious health problems like lung cancer.
Many of the health conditions that can result from sleep apnea also contribute to sleep apnea in and of themselves. Excess weight is a leading contributor to sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes. Being overweight often causes the formation of fat deposits around the neck, which can increase the likelihood of your breathing passages collapsing.
Even less severe health conditions, like chronic nasal congestion, can increase your risk for sleep apnea. Many of these health issues also increase vulnerability to COVID-19 and other health problems.
With such health issues, it is essential that you take proactive steps in addressing the items that are within your control. Quitting smoking, using a nasal decongestant, or exercising and improving your diet to lose weight will all increase your overall quality of life and reduce your risk for sleep apnea.
Controlling Your Risk With CPAP Therapy
By using CPAP therapy to control your sleep apnea and developing other healthy habits to improve your overall health, you can avoid more serious medical problems in the future. This will reduce your susceptibility to COVID-19 and other diseases. You will be happier as you have more energy and a better overall quality of life.
In fact, by taking control of your sleep quality, you could even extend your life.
Unfortunately, some people find themselves unable to put a stop to their sleep apnea symptoms due to perceived cost barriers. This can be especially true if you don’t have insurance.
This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies can help. We offer a wide range of CPAP machines from top brands like Philips Respironics, ResMed, and DeVilbiss. Many of these CPAP machines are available at discounted prices. We also offer free shipping on all orders over $89, and financing is available so you can make affordable monthly payments.
During uncertain times, it is important to control the things you can control. One of those things is your sleep quality. By making CPAP therapy a priority, you will be able to give yourself better health outcomes now and in the future.