The life-threatening consequences of obstructive sleep apnoea are caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Breathing is hindered or obstructed when the airways are too narrow. Consequently, too little air reaches the lungs. During these breathing pauses, the oxygen content in the blood decreases rapidly, the heart races, blood pressure increases and stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released.
The brain and the heart react particularly sensitively.
The lack of oxygen during sleep can lead to the death of brain cells and gradual organ damage. The brain and the heart react particularly sensitively to the lack of oxygen. “Medically relevant sleep apnoea – meaning at least five to ten breathing pauses per hour – does not only make you permanently tired, lacking in motivation and exhausted, but has serious consequences for your health,” It can encourage the development of metabolic problems such as type 2 diabetes, the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases or lead to impotence.
This is a short video demonstrating sleep apnea. Notice the chest and abdominal wall movements. After every episode of forced breathing there is a pause, then as the Carbon dioxide builds up and oxygen level drops - the brain signals a breathing stimulus. However the normal signal is not strong enough to overcome the collapsed airway. Therefore a panick breathing stimulate initiates the “ snoring and gasping” response. This breaks the sleep resulting in the daytime feeling of tiredness/lethargy/loss of motivation/inability to concentrate and frequent daytime nodding off. These are the non clinical effects of sleep apnea. The silent effects are the deadly ones.
From a surgeons perspective- untreated sleep apnea increases surgical complication to unacceptable level. I will not operate on anybody with untreated sleep apnea.