Why is it necessary to treat sleep apnea?

Dr. Fred Y. Lin, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT Specialist)

Like high blood pressure and diabetes, sleep apnea is a chronic disease that can affect the quality of your life and damage your general health. We know that patients with untreated sleep apnea have increased risks for developing cardiovascular disease and events, and that these risks increase further over time as they age.

Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

First described in 1965, sleep apnea owes its name to a Greek word, apnea, meaning "want of breath." The pauses in breathing are almost always accompanied by snoring between apnea episodes, although not everyone who snores has this condition. Sleep apnea can also be characterized by choking sensations. The frequent interruptions of deep, restorative sleep often lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and may be associated with an early-morning headache. Approximately 18 million Americans are thought to suffer from sleep apnea.

Early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea are important because this condition is associated not only with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, but also with severe daytime fatigue, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and stroke, as well as a loss of memory and other intellectual capabilities. For many patients with sleep apnea, their bed partners or family members are the first to suspect that something is wrong, usually from the patients' heavy snoring and apparent struggle to breathe. Coworkers or friends may notice that a patient falls asleep during the day at inappropriate times (such as while driving a car, working, or talking). The patients themselves usually do not know they have a problem and may not believe it when told. It is important for them to see a doctor if they snore heavily or if a sleep partner has noticed periods of interrupted breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea should also be considered in anyone with significant daytime drowsiness or changes in intellectual function. Sleep apnea can be properly diagnosed only by a sleep disorder specialist and usually only in a sleep laboratory. Home testing equipment may also be provided through a sleep disorder specialist. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine certifies specialists and sleep laboratories and, if appropriate, a referral to one of these centers should be sought from your physician.

What the Drug Companies Won't Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn't Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life--and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You

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What the Drug Companies Won't Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn't Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life--and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You

From one of today's leading authorities on natural medicine comes a provocative look into how the pharmaceutical and medical industries have created our current health crisis and a practical guide to...
Dr. Scott M. Leibowitz, MD
Sleep Medicine Specialist

Treating sleep apnea addresses the symptoms of sleep disruption, day time sleepiness, difficulty with concentration and cardiovascular issues. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Scott Leibowitz about treating sleep apnea.


People who are sleepy or who have trouble focusing due to sleep apnea can have cognitive dysfunction, become irritable and have interaction issues at work. They also have a higher risk of seizures and heart problems, such as sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm).

It is important to treat sleep apnea because it can lead to other chronic diseases and poor health. With sleep apnea, your body isn't receiving enough oxygen to supply all the vital organs. This can make you tired during the day and can also cause chronic heart or lung disease. The best way to seek treatment is to discuss your symptoms with your physician. From there, testing and appropriate treatment can be done.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.