Sleep apnoea is a condition where people repeatedly stop breathing while asleep. People with sleep apnoea often complain of daytime sleepiness, difficulties concentrating, and they tend to have high blood pressure. The people around them usually complain about their nightly snoring, gasping, and choking noises.
About five per cent of people have treatable moderate or severe sleep apnoea, which means they stop breathing 15 times or more times per hour while asleep. A larger number of people – as many as 20 per cent of middle-aged folk – have mild sleep apnoea, which means they stop breathing around five to 15 times an hour. Although this may sound pretty scary, it’s still not clear that this mild version causes ill health.
Left untreated, sleep apnoea will not only shorten your life by hastening a string of illnesses, it may also increase your risk of suffering from depression. And the general sleepiness of people with the condition is thought to as much as triple their risk for car accidents and injury.
The prevalence of sleep apnoea increases in ageing societies that are getting heavier, along with other age and obesity-related diseases. But studies from around the world show your risk of developing these diseases is strongly influenced by whether or not you have sleep apnoea in the first place. In particular, the condition has been linked to stroke and cancer. (Post continues after gallery.)
The consequences of stroke can range from between temporary inconvenience to serious life-altering disability and death. Smoking, cholesterol, and high blood pressure are three key causes of stroke that you can control. And, unfortunately, sleep apnoea has a big impact on the latter.
The condition causes your daytime blood pressure to increase a little bit over the long term. And, while you’re asleep, it causes massive spikes in blood pressure. Sleep apnoea also might make your ability to process cholesterol a little less efficient.
So it’s not terribly surprising that studies from Spain, the United States,
and Australia have all found people with untreated sleep apnoea are three times more likely to have a stroke.
One of the more surprising recent research findings is sleep apnoea’s influence on cancer risk. Researchers really weren’t expecting to find this because we’d always thought sleep apnoea mainly influenced heart disease.