Complications of Sleep Apnea

Brain fog, irritability, fatigue. If you wake up without feeling fully awake, you might not be sleeping restfully. Whether you think you snore or not, you could have sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous breathing disorder

Dana J. Rockey, DMD, our sleep specialist at South County Sleep Solutions, knows how essential a good night’s sleep is for optimal health. That’s why we treat sleep apnea at our office in Newport Beach, California. 

Sleep apnea and snoring doesn’t just disturb your sleep (or your partner’s sleep). It actually affects your health. Because sleep apnea stops you from breathing while you sleep, it can disturb the way your body functions, leading to serious complications like heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and even accidents.

Heart attack and stroke

Your body needs to rest during the night so that it can repair itself and consolidate memories. If you’re constantly waking up — even if you’re not aware of the awakenings — your body is stressed, rather than restored. 

When your breathing is interrupted, you also don’t take in sufficient amounts of oxygen. You need oxygen to nourish your cells and organs, including your brain.

Without rest and oxygen, your blood pressure may rise. The increased force of your blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, which increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Type 2 diabetes

Lack of restorative rest can affect your blood sugar levels and your body’s ability to utilize insulin. Fragmented sleep increases hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen in the blood. Hypoxia decreases insulin sensitivity, which leads to higher blood glucose levels.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, you’re more likely to be obese, as well. Obesity is strongly associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when your airway is blocked by your own soft tissues, such as overly large tonsils or a fatty neck.

Dr. Rockey believes that a healthy diet and exercise are part of treating OSA as well as most other illnesses. He helps you achieve a healthy weight so that you can control or prevent diabetes and improve your sleep apnea, too.

Increased risk of accidents

If you’re deprived of sleep, you’re more likely to be drowsy while driving or while operating dangerous equipment.  When you’re sleepy, you can’t focus as well or react in time when faced with danger. And, of course, if you fall asleep, you’re completely out of control.

Independent studies estimate that drowsy drivers are involved in about 9% of all car crashes. They’re also involved in more than 10% of car accidents that are serious enough to require a police report. 


Sleep apnea raises your risk for obesity, which in turn raises your risk for complications such as diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. If you have mild sleep apnea, gaining just 10% of your body weight increases your risk for serious sleep apnea by six fold.  

Though this may seem like a loop from which there’s no escape, improving your sleep and losing weight breaks the loop. Losing just 10% of your body weight, may improve sleep apnea by 20%. Losing weight also reduces your risks for the serious complications of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is treatable

You may have avoided being evaluated for sleep apnea because you don’t want to sleep attached to a CPAP machine. However, a simple custom-designed oral appliance may be all you need to improve your breathing — and your sleep — at night. Dr. Rockey also recommends lifestyle adjustments that improve your overall health and help you attain a stable, healthy weight.

Don’t give up another night of restful sleep. Get a sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment now. Schedule an appointment by calling our office at 949-558-0554.

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