Importance of Healthy Breathing

Snoring, Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are conditions affecting not only the quality of sleep during rest, but also your overall health.  The effects of untreated OSA and SDB are more significant than you can imagine.  The following are conditions directly related to untreated SDB:

  • Overactive Bladder (day and night)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy (expanded heart muscle)
  • Stroke
  • Depression

How is SDB related to these conditions? The connection is largely hormonal. When you stop breathing in your sleep due to your airway collapsing, stress hormones are released into your blood stream. Your body feels it is suffocating, and a “fight or flight” response is activated. This may explain times when you’ve woken with your heart pounding, or woken from your sleep with a startled “jump”.

These stress hormones circulating in your system night after night have long term effects on your blood vessels, your heart muscle, your lungs, and even your bladder and your brain.  Like any condition, the longer it goes untreated, the more damage it can cause, some of which may be irreversible.  The sooner the condition is treated, the easier it is to prevent long term risks.

Most of these conditions listed above have more than one cause.  For example, if you have SDB and are obese, controlling just your SDB may not reduce your high blood pressure unless you also address your obesity.  Many patients with SDB and OSA take multiple medications for their high blood pressure and/or diabetes and still cannot control these conditions. The fluctuating stress hormones at night can interfere with the medications, making them less effective. Treatment of the SDB can help control these conditions.

Speak to your doctor if you find that you have one or more of these conditions that remains uncontrolled despite sticking to the medication regime.  You may be surprised to find you have SDB, and by treating the SDB you may in turn achieve better control of the other associated disorders.