Sleep apnea can cause global disruptions in your body’s normal functioning. After all, breathing is about as basic a function as we have–everything depends on getting enough air to the body and brain. So it makes sense that when that’s not happening, everything could be disrupted.
But now a new study which involved real-time measurements of the body’s metabolism during apneic episodes shows just how dramatic those disruptions can be, with spikes in blood sugar, surges in blood pressure, and constant infusions of stress hormones.
Real-Time Metabolic Effects
Many studies have confirmed that there’s a connection between sleep apnea and metabolic effects like diabetes and blood pressure. But because of the nature of many of these studies, some people doubt that sleep apnea is the real cause. Instead, they argue that sleep apnea is another impact of obesity, which is the true cause of high blood pressure and diabetes.
To try to add clarity to this question, researchers wanted to take real-time measurements of the body’s metabolism during the night, showing how it was directly impacted by apneic events.
The subjects of the study were 31 obese patients with an average age of 51. Each patient was monitored for two nights. Once while using their CPAP machine and once while not using their CPAP machine after two previous nights of also not using their CPAP machine.
As patients slept, researchers measured:
- Stress hormone cortisol
- Blood fatty acids
- Blood sugar
Subjects also had their blood pressure tested at the end of both nights. All tested levels rose when people weren’t using their CPAP machines. In addition, the increase seemed related to the severity of sleep apnea.
This study shows that sleep apnea has a direct impact on rising markers of poor cardiovascular and metabolic health. It is a powerful piece of evidence showing that, no matter where your diabetes or high blood pressure started: sleep apnea always makes it worse.
Treat Sleep Apnea All Night Every Night
This study also shows that it doesn’t take very long before not treating sleep apnea starts to impact your health. Even if people are following the guidelines for supposed compliance with CPAP protocols–using it “most nights”–they can experience serious impact from not using their CPAP.
The same is true for people who think about leaving their CPAP machine at home when they go on vacation. After only a few days, the impact can begin affecting them on even a relatively short trip.
That’s why oral appliances are a great treatment option. Because they are so easy and so comfortable, people are much more likely to use the device all night, every night. In fact, studies have shown that about 84% of oral appliance users do use it all night, every night.
As we understand the immediate impact of sleep apnea on the body, constant treatment comes to seem more important, which means that many more people will benefit from oral appliance therapy.