Sleep Apnea And It’s Impact

Sleep apnea can creep up on you slowly, and without proper awareness, you might suffer from it longer than you have to. Learn more about sleep apnea, how it’s diagnosed and what you can do about it.

By URLife Team
12 Jul 2023

Sleep apnea is a common yet often undiagnosed sleep disorder that affects approximately 34 million people in India. It is characterised by interrupted breathing during sleep, leading to an individual waking up frequently throughout the night and subsequent daytime fatigue.


Sleep apnea can impact an individual’s life in many ways, from their lifestyle to even their social interactions with others. Keep reading to understand the symptoms, treatment options and more for sleep apnea.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


The Advent of Sleep Apnea in India

In recent years, India has witnessed a significant rise in the prevalence of sleep apnea, reflecting the changing lifestyle patterns and increased prevalence of risk factors among its population. Here are some noteworthy statistics:

1. Prevalence

It is estimated that approximately 13 per cent of urban Indians suffer from sleep apnea, as per Indian Journal of Sleep Medicine, whereas the prevalence in rural areas is relatively lower. However, these figures could be higher due to underdiagnosis and lack of awareness.


Related story: 6 Viral Life Hacks To Help Sleep Better


2. Gender Distribution

Sleep apnea affects both men and women; however, men are more commonly affected. Studies suggest that men are two to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.


3. Age Groups

Sleep apnea can affect individuals of all ages, including children. However, it becomes more prevalent with age. The risk tends to increase after the age of 40.


Related story: 3 Habits For Getting Better Sleep


4. Obesity and Lifestyle

The rising obesity rates in India contribute significantly to the increasing prevalence of sleep apnea. It is estimated that around 50-60 per cent of individuals with sleep apnea in India are obese. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as sedentary behaviour, poor diet, and irregular sleep patterns, also contribute to the risk.


5. Comorbidities

Sleep apnea is often associated with various comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and depression. These conditions further exacerbate the health risks associated with sleep apnea.


Related story: How To Calm The Mind And Get A Good Night's Sleep


Understanding Sleep Apnea in Children

In children, the most prevalent form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax and block the airway, leading to repeated pauses in breathing. These pauses can last for a few seconds to a minute, and they may occur numerous times throughout the night.


Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors can contribute to the development of sleep apnea in children. These include:

1. Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids

The most common cause of OSA in children is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. These tissues can obstruct the airway during sleep, making it difficult for the child to breathe properly.


2. Obesity

Excessive weight can increase the risk of sleep apnea in children. The excess fat deposits can affect the airway, leading to breathing difficulties during sleep.


3. Craniofacial Abnormalities

Certain craniofacial conditions, such as a small jaw or a narrow airway, can predispose children to sleep apnea.


4. Family History

There may be a genetic component to sleep apnea, and children with family members who have the disorder are more likely to develop it.


Related story: Pink Noise-Can It Help You Sleep Better


Symptoms and Effects on Children

Sleep apnea can have various effects on a child's health and well-being. Some common symptoms and signs to look out for include:

1. Loud snoring

Intermittent or persistent loud snoring is one of the most noticeable signs of sleep apnea in children.


2. Pauses in breathing during sleep

Observe if your child experiences periods of breath-holding during sleep, followed by gasping or choking sounds.


3. Restless sleep

Children with sleep apnea may toss and turn frequently, experiencing disrupted and restless sleep patterns.


4. Daytime sleepiness

Chronic sleep disruption can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, which can impact a child's ability to concentrate, learn, and perform well in school.


5. Behavioural and mood changes

Sleep apnea may contribute to irritability, mood swings, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-like symptoms in children.


6. Poor growth

Sleep apnea can interfere with the release of growth hormones, potentially leading to stunted growth and development in children.


Related story: The Best Posture To Sleep In


Seeking Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect that your child might have sleep apnea, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. A paediatrician or sleep specialist can conduct a comprehensive evaluation, which may include a physical examination, sleep study (polysomnography), and a detailed assessment of symptoms.


Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea in Children

1. Adenotonsillectomy

If enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the primary cause of sleep apnea, surgical removal may be recommended to improve breathing and alleviate symptoms.


2. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

In cases where surgery is not feasible or insufficient, CPAP therapy may be prescribed. A CPAP machine delivers a constant flow of air pressure through a mask, helping to keep the airway open during sleep.


3. Weight management and lifestyle changes

If obesity is a contributing factor, adopting a healthy diet and exercise routine may be recommended to reduce weight and improve sleep quality.


4. Orthodontic interventions

For children with craniofacial abnormalities, orthodontic devices like palatal expanders or oral appliances may be used to widen the airway and promote better airflow during sleep.


Related story: What Happens When You Are Sleep Deprived?


Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea

When left untreated, this condition can have serious consequences on an individual's overall health and quality of life. Let us learn the potential ramifications of untreated sleep apnea to emphasise the importance of timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

1. Cardiovascular Issues

Untreated sleep apnea puts significant strain on the cardiovascular system. The frequent interruptions in breathing cause oxygen levels to drop, triggering a cascade of physiological responses that can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), and an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.


2. Daytime Sleepiness and Impaired Cognitive Function

Sleep apnea disrupts the normal sleep cycle, preventing individuals from obtaining adequate restorative sleep. As a result, daytime sleepiness and fatigue become persistent problems, affecting daily functioning and quality of life. Untreated sleep apnea can impair cognitive function, including memory, concentration, problem-solving abilities, and decision-making skills. This can impact academic and occupational performance and increase the risk of accidents, both on the road and in other areas of life.


Related story: Sleep Deprivation: The Real Reason You Are Losing Sleep


3. Mood Disorders and Mental Health Issues

The chronic sleep deprivation associated with untreated sleep apnea can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 
Additionally, sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), leading to difficulties in attention, impulse control, and behavioural problems, especially in children.


4. Reduced Quality of Life

The cumulative effects of untreated sleep apnea, including daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairments, and mood disturbances, can significantly impact an individual's overall quality of life. Relationships, social interactions, work productivity, and participation in activities may all be affected. Moreover, the strain placed on personal well-being and emotional health can lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and a decreased sense of well-being.


Related story: 7 Ways To Recover From A Bad Night's Sleep


5. Metabolic and Endocrine Disruptors

Sleep apnea has been associated with metabolic disturbances, including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Disrupted sleep patterns and hormonal imbalances caused by sleep apnea can affect the regulation of appetite and satiety, leading to weight gain and difficulties in maintaining a healthy body weight.


6. Complications during Surgery and Medication Use

Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risks associated with surgery and medication use. Anaesthesia can further relax the muscles and worsen the obstruction of the airway, potentially leading to complications during surgery. Additionally, certain medications, such as sedatives and opioids, can suppress breathing and exacerbate the effects of sleep apnea.


Related story: Best Sleeping Habits From Around The World


The consequences of untreated sleep apnea are far-reaching and can have a significant impact on an individual's physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. Recognising the symptoms and seeking proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to mitigate these risks. 


Effective treatments, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), lifestyle modifications, and surgical interventions when necessary, can significantly improve sleep apnea symptoms, reduce associated health risks, and restore individuals to a healthier and more fulfilling life. If you suspect you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, it is crucial to consult a doctor for a thorough evaluation and appropriate management.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have sleep apnea. Taking regular health checks can help detect sleep apnea at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.



Follow Us On Instagram