Untreated Sleep Apnea Can Lead to Health Complications

f you let sleep apnea go untreated, it could be dangerous to your health. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health conditions, such as an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes. These health conditions should not be ignored. To help you gain a better understanding of health complications with untreated sleep apnea, we’ve put together some helpful information on health problems linked with sleep apnea:

High Blood Pressure

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes people to wake up frequently throughout the night, which can contribute to high blood pressure. The act of waking up so often at nighttime can cause hormonal systems to go into overdrive, which results in high blood pressure levels. The sudden drops in blood-oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea episodes increase blood pressure and place a strain on your cardiovascular system.

Heart Disease

Sleep apnea can also lead to heart attacks. As a result, many people die in the middle of the night due to low oxygen or the stress of waking up frequently. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, while stroke takes fourth place for the cause of death—high blood pressure is a major risk for both conditions. It is vital that you understand the connection between heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and seek treatment immediately.

Type 2 Diabetes

If you suffer from Type 2 diabetes, you might also suffer from sleep apnea, which can lead to obesity. And, as you might know, obesity is another leading cause of sleep apnea. Not only do diabetes and sleep apnea have obesity in common, they share a long list of other potential complications, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Eye disease
  • Changes in glucose metabolism
  • Weight control problems

Treating sleep apnea is important in getting a good night’s sleep, but it can also help treat and maybe even eradicate many other diabetic complications.


As we previously mentioned, obesity is a leading cause and side effect of sleep apnea. Adding on weight, raises the risk of sleep apnea, while losing weight can help cure sleep apnea—it’s important to pay attention to your weight. When people are severely overweight, they can fail to breathe rapidly enough or deep enough.

This then results in low blood oxygen levels and high blood carbon dioxide levels. And when this happens, many obese people stop breathing altogether for short periods of time during sleep. In return, extreme strain is placed on the heart, which can lead to symptoms of heart failure.

Acid Reflux

While there is no proof that sleep apnea causes acid reflux or persistent heartburn, it has been shown that people with sleep apnea do complain of acid reflux. As a result, treatment of sleep apnea appears to improve acid reflux and vice versa. The association with sleep apnea and acid reflux is relatively new, but we have been aware of it for some time now. Some of the connections include:

  • Interrupted sleep
  • Relaxation triggers
  • CPAP side effects

Taking the next step by treating sleep apnea and acid reflux will help you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle without complications.

Every health complication of sleep apnea can lead to another health complication (and another). By understanding the connections, you can better care for your health and further prevent other complications. Contact Dr. Kim Ledermann or Dr. Roy Hakala, our dentists in St. Paul, MN, at Minnesota Craniofacial Center, P.C. for more information on sleep apnea and how treatment can help.