8 Health Conditions Associated with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly during sleep. It can affect anyone, even children, but statistics have indicated that men are two to three times more likely to suffer from this sleep disorder than women.

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Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea comes in three types:
  1. Obstructive sleep apnea,
  2. Central sleep apnea, and
  3. Complex apnea.
Some of the symptoms of this condition include, but are not limited to:
  • Several pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Decreased focus, memory, motor skills, and reflexes
  • Loud snoring
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth or sore throat
  • Mood swings
  • Morning headaches
  • Uncontrolled daytime sleepiness
  • Urinating at night often

One of the treatment options for this sleep disorder is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy which requires you to use a machine-operated mask called a CPAP machine. This machine uses air pressure to keep your airway open, helping you breathe much easier as you sleep. One crucial requirement of this therapy is keeping the machine clean at all times using a CPAP cleaner to prevent potential health consequences that germs, bacteria, viruses, and dirt in the machine may cause.

Common Causes and Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Different factors may contribute to sleep apnea, such as another medical condition, your physical structure, and your lifestyle. Some other factors that may cause or heighten your risk for this condition include:
  • Being overweight or obesity
  • Having a large neck, tongue, and/or tonsils
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Nasal congestion
  • Having a small jaw bone
  • Premature birth
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Genetic syndromes
  • Neurological conditions
  • Heart disease or kidney failure

Diseases or Conditions Associated with Sleep Apnea

The following diseases or conditions may either cause sleep apnea or be a complication of having this sleep disorder.

1. Obesity

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Obesity and sleep apnea are reciprocal problems. One can be obese and develop sleep apnea, and vice versa. For adults, obesity is determined through one's body mass index (BMI). This term links the healthy balance between your weight related to your height.
  • If your BMI is below 18.5, you are considered underweight.
  • If it’s within 18.5-24.9, then you have a normal weight.
  • If it’s 25-29.9 you are overweight, and if it’s 30 or higher, you are classified as obese.

A person who is suffering from sleep deprivation, one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea, has an increased secretion of ghrelin, appetite-stimulating specific hormones. Increase production in ghrelin may increase your craving for fatty, salty, and sweet foods which may, later on, lead to weight gain. Obesity is one of the most common symptoms of people suffering from sleep apnea and may result in a domino of other symptoms and health risks such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

How to Manage Obesity
  • If you are carrying the extra pounds, the first thing you have to do is try to lose weight.
  • Aside from exercising regularly, you may also opt to change (or at least slowly improve) the way you eat.
  • Introduce healthier options, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meat.
  • Try to avoid junk food, fast food, refined carbohydrates, and other “food traps.”
  • If you smoke, it’s also best to cut it all together as this may also be contributing to your condition.
  • If you are sleep deprived, speak with your doctor to figure out what’s making it hard for you to sleep at night.
  • Having enough sleep can help improve your digestion, stabilize your emotions, and also improve the quality of your life.

2. Acid Reflux

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According to research, three out of five patients with sleep apnea have chronic acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux occurs when the acid on the stomach (which dissolves food) flows back into the esophagus. It is common for people with sleep apnea because sleep disorder causes airway pressure changes that trigger acid reflux.  Severe cases of sleep apnea, those associated with heartburn and chest pain, may also result in acid reflux. 

The common symptoms of GERD include:
  • heartburn,
  • chest pain,
  • a sour taste in the mouth, and
  • bad breath.

However, it is possible to have GERD without a person knowing it.

How to Treat GERD

One of the ultimate things you can do to avoid acid reflux is to avoid foods that may trigger this condition, such as spicy food, garlic, coffee, mint, fatty food, tea, alcohol, chocolate, onions, and tomatoes. Lose weight if you’re overweight, and avoid smoking. You may also prevent this by eating slowly and staying upright after eating. It’s also best to sleep on an incline position, as sleeping flat on your back can also trigger acid reflux.

3. Type 2 Diabetes

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Diabetes and sleep apnea are often correlated with each other. Because sleep apnea disrupts one’s sleep cycle, this in return may decrease the production of growth hormones which are responsible for the creation of restorative muscles in the body. This type of hormone affects wound healing. Sleep interruption also alters the body’s production rate of sugar and promotes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when your body can’t use glucose from your blood for energy which prompts the pancreas to increase insulin production, resulting in high sugar levels in the blood.

The common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are:
  • frequent urination,
  • increased thirst and hunger,
  • slow-healing sores or wounds,
  • blurred vision,
  • unintended weight loss,
  • frequent infections, and
  • darkening of specific areas of the skin.

How to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Staying on top of your blood sugar is the baseline of managing type 2 diabetes. You can do this by including fiber-rich foods in your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, sleeping for seven to eight hours per night, and avoiding refined carbohydrates, sweets, and animal fats.

4. Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Just like sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is also one of the most common pulmonary diseases. Patients who have COPD or asthma are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea due to the basic upper airway mechanisms that both disorders share. A patient may exhibit symptoms of both diseases at the same time. This is commonly referred to as the overlap syndrome.

Overlap syndrome may increase your risk for other health complications, such as diabetes and heart disease. A person suffering from overlap syndrome has a highly compromised respiratory system, and therefore must seek treatment as soon as possible.

Overlap syndrome was identified years back when experts began to notice a couple of things:
  • Patients who have COPD and/or asthma are more likely to also suffer from sleep apnea based on the patterns of their breathing issues in the morning and at night.
  • Patients who had either COPD or asthma, but not sleep apnea, still had breathing problems, but they weren’t as serious as those with both or the overlap.

How to Treat or Manage Asthma or COPD

Both asthma and COPD may be treated with bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP therapy). This treatment option uses a BiPAP machine that comes with a mask and tubing, both of which may help patients receive two levels of pressurized air for more comfortable breathing. Some other treatment options include medications (i.e. antibiotics), lifestyle changes, and surgery.

If your doctor advise you to undergo BiPAP therapy, just be sure to regularly clean your BiPAP machine using a high-quality BiPAP cleaner to prevent further health risks such as sinusitis, nosebleeds, and infection in the mouth, throat, or nose.

5. High Blood Pressure

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A person with sleep apnea may also develop high blood pressure or hypertension because of the sudden drops in blood oxygen levels during sleep. The increase in blood pressure may potentially strain the heart as well, heightening your chances of periodic heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats or atrial fibrillation. Without treatment, these heart diseases could lead to death or permanent damage to the cardiovascular system. 

How to Treat or Manage High Blood Pressure

Lifestyle changes, such as eating a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt, keeping your stress levels low, doing regular physical activity, losing weight (if overweight or obese) or maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, taking your medications properly, and closely working with your doctor can help lower your blood pressure. These changes have multiple benefits to your health as managing high blood pressure properly can also help prevent heart disease.

6. Chronic Kidney Disease

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Sleep apnea is commonly associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and high blood pressure as they share many common risk factors. Because your blood pressure fluctuates during sleep interruptions, the sudden increase and decrease in blood pressure alters the kidney’s ability to properly filter the blood that passes it, and thus damaging the kidney’s ability to function.  This combination has adverse effects on the heart and may increase your chances of stroke or death. On the other hand, the progression of CKD can lead to the worsening of sleep apnea and hypertension or vice versa.

How to Treat or Manage CKD

Sadly, there is no cure for CKD. However, some treatment options and lifestyle changes can help relieve the symptoms of this condition and may help prevent it from getting worse at the same time. These include staying healing, religiously taking your medication, dialysis (if advised by your doctor), and kidney transplant (for advanced stages of CKD).

7. Metabolic Syndrome

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The above-mentioned risks and complications such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes may merge and become a metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is often associated with being overweight or obese, and a lack of physical activity. It's also linked to insulin resistance. 

When left untreated, this condition may inevitably result in stroke, coronary heart disease, or damage to the blood vessels.

Your chances of developing metabolic syndrome, however, are greater if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you’ve had gestational diabetes, or you've had diabetes during pregnancy.

How to Treat Metabolic Syndrome

It’s possible to reverse metabolic syndrome by making lifestyle changes, such as:
  • losing weight (if obese or overweight),
  • eating a well-balanced diet,
  • exercising regularly,
  • limiting alcohol intake, and
  • avoiding smoking.

Since some symptoms of this syndrome include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, your doctor may also prescribe medication for them.

8. Vision Disorders

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As previously emphasized, sleep apnea and hypertension are two problems that may coexist together. Having said that, high blood pressure may cause damage to a person's blood vessel network. And because the cardiovascular system interacts with almost every part of our body, the blood vessels in the eyes are not exempted from being linked to sleep apnea.

Here are some eye disorders that people with sleep apnea may experience: 
  • Floppy eyelid syndrome: This disorder causes eyelids to turn inside-out voluntarily during sleep, developing in watering, stickiness, or discomfort of the eye which may result in blurred vision. 
  • Glaucoma: This condition is the second most common cause of temporary and permanent blindness. Glaucoma happens when the optic nerve in the eye is severely damaged due to high pressure.
  • Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION): This condition is characterized by the sudden, painless onset of vision loss in one eye due to vessel damage. It is often noticed upon waking up.
  • Papilledema: This is characterized by swelling of the optic nerve in both eyes. Papilledema happens because of increased pressure within the skull which may lead to worsening of your vision. This condition may also lead to blindness.

How to Treat Eye Disorders

The treatment you may need depends on your eye disorder. But usually, this may vary from eye drops and oral medication to traditional surgery and laser eye surgery. Your doctor may also advise a combination of any of these treatment options.

Final Thoughts

Sleep apnea may be one of the most common sleep disorders, but it is linked to several serious diseases and conditions. If you have sleep apnea and are advised by your doctor to undergo CPAP or BiPAP therapy, please be sure to keep your machine clean before each use to lower your risk for further health complications.

Here at CleanFlash®, we offer an easy-to-use and lightweight CPAP / BiPAP cleaner that uses both ozone and UV light for more efficient cleaning. This CPAP cleaner comes with a two-year warranty and is compliant with FDA requirements for cleaning safety and efficiency.

To learn more about our product, please click here.



Mayo Clinic
Science Daily
COPD Foundation

Freight Waves
Cleveland Clinic
American Sleep Apnea Association
Sleep Education
Sleep Care Online
Surgical Sleep Solutions
Slide Share

Valley Sleep Center

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