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What are the Consequences of Untreated Sleep Disorders?

In the United States, about 25 percent of the population has occasional sleeping problems, while 10 percent of the population has chronic sleeping problems, according to MedlinePlus. While there are several different types of sleep disorders, the most common ones include narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea, noted the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

These sleep disorders can cause sleep deprivation, which can have negative effects on everyday functioning. But what are the consequences of not getting treatment for these sleep disorders?

Heart Disease

Patients who have obstructive sleep apnea and do not receive treatment are at risk of heart disease: MedlinePlus noted that untreated, this sleep disorder can lead to heart disease, or in patients who already have heart disease, can worsen symptoms.

Untreated sleep apnea may lead to or worsen high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias. The disorder may also lead to a stroke or heart failure. A stroke is a medical emergency that has several severe effects, such as brain damage. With heart failure, the heart does not pump enough blood.

Auto Accidents

Sleep deprivation can be dangerous, affecting individual’s judgment and hand-eye coordination. These impairments can affect driving ability. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted that an estimated 100,000 auto accidents and 1,500 deaths from auto accidents occur each year in the United States due to the driver having sleep deprivation.

Thus chronic sleep deprivation from an untreated sleep disorder puts the individual at risk for being in an auto accident. Patients with untreated narcolepsy are also at risk. MedlinePlus noted that accidents and injuries can occur if a patient has a narcoleptic attack while doing an activity, such as driving.

Weakened Immune System

MedlinePlus noted that there is a connection between sleep deprivation and a weakened immune system. Individuals who are sleep deprived due to an untreated sleep disorder may have a harder time fighting infections, as their immune system’s ability are decreased.

Impaired Functioning

Individuals who go untreated for sleep disorders may find that they have increasing trouble performing everyday functions. For example, patients with narcolepsy may have difficulty functioning at work, which can affect work performance, according to MedlinePlus. Besides affecting work productivity and performance, untreated narcolepsy can impair patients’ social activities.

If you have been experiencing sleep difficulties for more than three nights a week for longer than one month, have a change in your quality of life from sleeping trouble, or have symptoms such as shortness of breath, talk to your health care provider.

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