How Untreated Sleep Disorders Can Affect Your Overall Health

Sleep. Many of us need more of it. About 40% of Americans get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get enough shut-eye. But if you don’t get enough sleep for prolonged periods, your body suffers damage.

Research shows that some of your body systems, like muscle or tissue repair, restore themselves only or mostly when you’re sleeping. Getting enough sleep is important for good health.

Do you snore heavily, feel drowsy during the day, or suffer from chronic fatigue? You may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. Following are some common sleep disorders and the effects on your body if they’re undiagnosed over a period of time.

Sleep apnea

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your tongue and mouth muscles relax too much and block your airway so you can’t breathe. You may come out of a deep sleep many times a night when your brain sends a signal that you need air.

You then gasp for breath and the cycle repeats itself. If you snore heavily, you may have sleep apnea, but people who don’t have it also snore, so the condition often goes undiagnosed. If untreated, sleep apnea can damage major body systems.

Lung function

Sleep apnea can make COPD and asthma worse because your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. You may find breathing more difficult than usual.

Type 2 diabetes

You may develop insulin resistance from undiagnosed sleep apnea. When your cells can’t take in insulin normally, your blood sugar rises. The condition may eventually result in Type 2 diabetes.

Digestive disorders

You may develop fatty liver or scarring on your liver from sleep apnea. If fatty liver progresses, it may lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis can’t be reversed, although it can be treated.

Sleep apnea can make heartburn or reflux disease worse. You may wake up in the middle of the night with severe reflux and be unable to go back to sleep..

Heart disease

Sleep apnea can lead to heart disease. People with sleep apnea often display several risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Your risk of stroke increases because you’re more prone to atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart beat.

Nervous system

A less common type of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, disrupts your brain’s signals that control breathing; you stop breathing temporarily. Medications can contribute to central sleep apnea, but Parkinson’s or certain types of heart disease can also cause it.

Sexual function

Sleep apnea can reduce your sexual function. It may be a contributing factor to erectile dysfunction.

Following are other common sleep disorders and their possible effects on your body if untreated.

Restless leg syndrome

If you have to move your legs at night or have a burning or itching sensation, you may have restless leg syndrome (RLS), which affects approximately 5-10% of adults. It’s a serious condition; one study found that men with RLS were 40% more likely to die during an eight-year study.


Insomnia can be caused by numerous factors, from painful conditions like arthritis or chronic back pain which make it hard to sleep, to psychiatric conditions like depression.

Medications can even be the culprit if you have insomnia. Some cold medications, as well as meds for high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, and other conditions can cause insomnia.

Psychological issues are leading causes of insomnia. If you have generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia is a common problem. You’re at increased risk of insomnia if you’re clinically depressed, and conversely, insomnia can worsen depression.

Your insomnia could also be a symptom of another sleep disorder like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.


Narcolepsy, or falling asleep when relaxed, can be dangerous when you’re supposed to be alert. Obviously, the risk is great if you’re driving a car, operating a machine, or cooking. Studies show that you’re more likely to fall asleep and have an accident when you’re driving if you have narcolepsy.

Sleepwalking and night terrors

Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, occurs in both children and adults. Sleepwalkers remain in a deep sleep when sleepwalking occurs. Sleepwalking can lead to dangerous situations; some people walk out of the house in the middle of the night or get in the car and try to drive.

Night terrors also occur in children and adults, and can involve crying or screaming, walking, running, and lashing out physically.

Modern medicine can treat sleep disorders very effectively. If you or a loved one suffers from a sleep disorder, don’t wait any longer to gain a correct diagnosis and a treatment plan. Call or book an appointment online with ApneCare Sleep Lab to alleviate your symptoms, so you get good quality, uninterrupted sleep.

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