Sleep apnea is a condition that can lead to life-threatening changes in your health. Sometimes, these changes can occur very quickly. You may think you are relatively healthy–you dismiss “minor” concerns like snoring or difficulty waking up in the morning–but there is a time bomb waiting to go off in the form of your sleep apnea and its related medical conditions.

These medical conditions can create a positive feedback loop that causes your health not just to get worse, but to get worse fast.

Older man feeling tired

What Is a Positive Feedback Loop?

Positive feedback loops are when conditions increase their own causes. Most of us are familiar with feedback from when someone holds a microphone too close to a speaker. The sound from the speaker enters the microphone, then is amplified by the sound system and put out through the speaker, louder than before. This louder sound then goes into the microphone, gets amplified and comes out of the speaker. This pattern continues until the sound becomes an incoherent, loud sound that hurts your ears and can damage the speaker.

Positive Feedback, Negative Consequences

When it comes to sleep apnea, there are a number of positive feedback loops that can accelerate damage to your health. One major one is obesity. If you are overweight, you are more likely to develop sleep apnea because of the weight pushing down on your airway or because of a fat tongue. But sleep apnea disrupts your body’s natural energy mechanisms, making it harder for you to lose or even maintain your weight–you gain weight, which makes your apnea worse, which makes you more likely to gain weight.

A similar effect occurs in liver disease. Sleep apnea can contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which develops into cirrhosis, but cirrhosis disrupts your sleep patterns, increasing your likelihood of sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing.

Obstructive sleep apnea can increase your risk of heart failure. Heart failure, in turn, can increase your risk of central sleep apnea, and this complex sleep apnea can be harder to treat and if left untreated puts you at risk for successive heart failures that can be fatal.

Break the Cycle

With the positive feedback loops that sleep apnea sets up, it’s crucial that we try to treat your sleep apnea as soon as possible. This will minimize damage related to sleep apnea, and hopefully help you avoid the major consequences of obesity, liver disease, and heart failure. To learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.