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The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a prevalent condition that affects around 30 million Americans. Living with untreated sleep apnea can have devastating long-term effects on people’s health and well-being. 

The continuous pauses in breathing throughout the night caused by sleep apnea deprive the body of oxygen and disrupt its natural rhythm, so it’s important to understand all of the potential risks that come with not seeking proper treatment for it. In this blog post, we’ll explore the potential long-term risks of untreated sleep apnea on health and well-being.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping, often resulting in disruptions in sleep patterns and insufficient rest. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. 

It occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing the soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway. This obstruction can cause snoring, gasping, or choking sounds and can lead to a range of health problems if left untreated. 

Other types of sleep apnea include central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to send signals needed to breathe, and complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. 

7 Long-term Effects of Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea on Overall Health and Well-being

Obstructive sleep apnea can have significant long-term effects on an individual’s overall health if left untreated.

Cardiovascular complications 

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a range of cardiovascular complications. When the breathing pauses during sleep, the body releases stress hormones which put a strain on the heart. Over time, individuals with untreated sleep apnea may develop hypertension (high blood pressure), which can increase the likelihood of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Metabolic disorders

People with untreated sleep apnea are more prone to insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease. 

Fatty liver disease

Studies have shown that obstructive sleep apnea is associated with the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), independent of other risk factors, such as metabolic syndrome and obesity. 

NAFLD is a condition where there is a build-up of fat in the liver that is not caused by alcohol. Over time, this condition can progress to a condition called cirrhosis, which is permanent scarring and hardening of the liver. 

Brain damage

The repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep disrupt the normal sleep schedule, leading to fragmented and insufficient restorative sleep and preventing the body to supply enough oxygen to the brain. 

A study shows that people with severe, untreated sleep apnea had a reduction in the brain’s white matter, and they also showed signs of impaired cognitive function, alertness, and moodiness.


Untreated sleep apnea not only affects physical health but can also have a significant impact on emotional and mental well-being. Individuals with sleep apnea often suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness, which can take a toll on their emotional well-being. Sleep deprivation has been closely linked to increased irritability, mood swings, and difficulty in managing stress. 

Increased risk of accidents 

People who suffer from sleep apnea often struggle to stay awake and alert during the day, which can have severe consequences for tasks that require concentration and quick reaction times, such as driving or operating machinery. 

Studies have shown that people with sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a motor vehicle accident due to their impaired vigilance. Additionally, untreated sleep apnea has been associated with an increased likelihood of workplace accidents and errors.

Impact on personal relationships

The disruptive nature of sleep apnea, which is typically characterized by loud snoring, can significantly disturb a partner’s sleep. Sleep partners often report disturbed sleep patterns, insomnia, and feelings of frustration or resentment due to the constant disruptions caused by their loved one’s untreated sleep apnea. 

Additionally, excessive daytime sleepiness and irritability resulting from sleep deprivation can lead to communication difficulties and strained interactions within the relationship. 

The fatigue and mood disturbances experienced by individuals with untreated sleep apnea may also diminish their ability to engage in social activities and maintain emotional connections, which can further strain relationships.

Read also: What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that requires medical evaluation and ongoing treatment. When left untreated, it can lead to a wide range of other health issues.

Therefore, anyone experiencing sleep apnea symptoms should seek prompt care from a medical professional, as early detection and proper care can significantly improve quality of life. 

If you suspect you might have sleep apnea or know someone who is showing sleep apnea symptoms and looking for oral appliance therapy in Lafayette, LA, to treat sleep apnea symptoms, contact Dr. Maestri today to see if you are a candidate for our sleep apnea dental device! 

Remember, getting enough, consistent, restorative sleep is essential for physical and emotional health, so don’t let sleep apnea stand between you and your well-being. Schedule your appointment today or contact us for more information about our sleep apnea treatment!


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