If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and you’re not experiencing poor sleep or daytime sleepiness you might wonder, what’s the big deal? I feel fine! Let’s try and break down why sleep apnea can be so detrimental to your health.

When your airway collapses during the night, this causes oxygen levels to drop and carbon dioxide levels to rise. Every single organ system in our body thrives on oxygen. And when someone has sleep apnea, oxygen levels are dropping repetitively every time you sleep. When oxygen levels drop night after night, multiples times per night that can add up to some serious problems!

When oxygen levels drop, your body goes into a“fight or flight” response. It releases cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) and epinephrine (adrenaline). Cortisol narrows the arteries in your body, which increases blood pressure and epinephrine causes your heart to beat faster. Cortisol also triggers glucose (sugar) to be released to provide energy to the body. Sleep is supposed to be restful and a time to conserve energy. But someone with sleep apnea is essentially running a marathon every night!

In addition to the fight or flight response, we know people who have sleep apnea never get into a deep sleep (stage N3 sleep) that we need to feel well-rested because your body is constantly trying to wake you up to breathe.