Sleep Apnea May Make You Age Faster
Posted: February 23, 2021
Can untreated sleep apnea make you older? Some research suggests that it might.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common but serious condition that makes you stop breathing during the night. It can increase your risk for major health conditions, like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. New research suggests that it may also make you age faster.
If you think you have OSA, it’s important to get tested and discuss treatment options. This can help you reduce risks associated with the sleep disorder. Sleep apnea treatment can also help you feel better in your daily life, like improving energy, mood, and even libido. It may also help reduce the risk of faster aging due to OSA.
Untreated Sleep Apnea May Accelerate Aging in Your Cells
Medical professionals have known the health effects of sleep apnea, like increased risk for heart disease and metabolic syndrome, for some time. However, new research indicates OSA may also increase your risk for premature cellular aging.
The study, conducted by Harvard Medical School, looked at adults with sleep apnea to see if they could detect accelerated aging in their cells. Researchers found that the DNA in their cells was “older” than their chronological age. For each extra point on the apnea-hypopnea index (a point system for how many times you stop breathing or breathe shallowly at night), the study found that there was about 215 days of faster aging in the people’s cells. Also, additional sleep disruptions in the OSA patients were linked to 321 extra days of accelerated aging.
Extra aging in your cells can increase your risk for conditions like heart disease, functional decline, dementia, and even some cancers.
The study didn’t look at how sleep apnea treatment affected the age of their cells. However, the researchers did propose that it may help reverse some of these changes and the risks associated with them.
What Sleep Apnea Does to Your Body
Why is sleep apnea such a major health concern? It can quickly wreak havoc on your body. OSA affects many different systems in your body, as it can negatively impact your breathing and sleep. Medical experts believe that this is why those with OSA have an increased risk for so many serious issues.
Decreased Blood Oxygen Levels
When you stop breathing at night due to OSA, that means you’re not getting as much oxygen as someone without it. This can lower your blood oxygen levels (how much oxygen your red blood cells are carrying). Therefore, your body may not be able to get as much oxygen to your vital organs like your heart.
Getting too little oxygen because of sleep apnea may also increase your risk for oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition where there are more free radicals in your body than antioxidants. This can damage your cells and may speed up the aging process.
Once your body senses that you’re not getting enough oxygen, your brain will suddenly wake you up to help you breathe. Waking up frequently throughout the night is also called sleep fragmentation, which also comes with some serious health effects.
Sleep Fragmentation and Daytime Sleepiness
Sleep fragmentation is also another common issue for people with OSA. Sleep fragmentation is where you have frequent short interruptions in sleep. This can make it difficult to reach the deep phases of sleep, which is where your body goes through a healing process and lets your cardiovascular system rest.
Waking up throughout the night because of sleep apnea can also make you extremely tired during the day. Daytime fatigue is a common sign of sleep apnea. Now, feeling sleepy may not sound like anything more than annoyance, but it’s actually pretty serious. Many people with daytime fatigue because of OSA struggle with work performance, feel irritable, and even have a higher risk for car and work accidents.
Also, OSA may increase your risk for chronic inflammation throughout your body. Low blood oxygen levels and a cardiovascular system in overdrive because of a lack of rest can trigger inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation is a common sign of aging. Inflammation can also damage healthy cells and increase your risk for health conditions like heart disease and some types of cancer.
Now, being overweight can increase your risk for developing sleep apnea, but the condition may also lead to weight gain. For example, daytime fatigue from OSA can make it hard to get enough exercise. It may also cause you to reach for “easy energy” junk foods with high calories, sugar, and simple carbs.
Also, a lack of sleep can even affect the hunger hormones in your body. Sleep is necessary for keeping hormones in balance, including the ones that control hunger. Sleep disruptions throughout the night due to OSA can throw these off balance. This can make you feel hungry when you should be full.
Being overweight also comes with some serious health risks, like heart problems, diabetes, and even death.
Sleep Apnea Treatment May Help You Look Younger, More Alert, and More Attractive
If you needed another reason to seek sleep apnea treatment, it may also help you look younger and more attractive.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan set out to see if CPAP use affected how OSA patients appeared. Using advanced photographic technology, the researchers took pictures of OSA patients’ faces before starting CPAP therapy and after using their CPAP for two months.
They looked at forehead volume, under eye volume, and color changes on the cheeks and under the eyes. In addition, judges looked at before and after pictures. These judges chose pictures based on whether the person looked younger, more alert, more attractive, and also which picture they thought was taken after starting treatment.
The results showed that, on average, the participants looked less puffy and had less redness on their face. Also, the judges on average identified the after picture as more youthful, alert, attractive, and treated for sleep apnea about ⅔ of the time. The researchers concluded that CPAP therapy may help you look younger and positively impact your appearance in other ways, potentially due to better sleep quality.
Visit a Leading Sleep Apnea Clinic to Take the First Step Toward a Better Night’s Sleep
If you think you might have OSA, our team at Low T Center is here to help. We’re a leading sleep apnea clinic with locations throughout the nation to help men address their health. Our providers are here to help you find underlying causes of your symptoms and provide customized treatment solutions to suit your lifestyle. Make an appointment today to learn how we may be able to help you achieve better sleep health.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.