There’s a difference between your chronological age and your biological age; the first is the number of years you’ve been alive while the second is how old your body actually seems based on changes in your chromosomes and other factors. Needless to say, having a biological age that’s significantly higher than your chronological age can be harmful for your health in the long run – and if you have a sleep disorder, your body could be aging at an accelerated rate without you even realizing it. Read on to learn how recent studies have linked aging to sleep-disordered breathing – and what you can do to protect yourself!
How Can Aging Be Linked to a Sleep Disorder?
A study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine looked at the biological age of patients shown to be suffering from sleep-disordered breathing. The results found that the more severe sleep apnea became, the more it was associated with hundreds of days of biological age acceleration. Moreover, the aging effects tended to be stronger in women than men, despite the fact that women are generally considered to be at a lower risk for sleep apnea in general.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect the Body?
Sleep apnea occurs when there are frequent pauses in your breathing while you’re asleep. When left untreated, this leads to severe problems with the quality of your sleep. Because your body will keep waking up for air, you’ll end up feeling exhausted during the day, and you’re likely to suffer from memory or concentration issues. Furthermore, there’s evidence that the decrease in blood oxygen levels (a natural consequence of having your breathing interrupted) can lead to stem cell exhaustion and epigenetic changes – hallmarks of aging. Sleep-disordered breathing has also been linked to Alzheimer’s Parkinson diseases, dementia, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases typically linked to age.
What Can You Do About Sleep Apnea?
It’s actually possible to reverse the effects of accelerated aging, but to do so you need to get your sleep apnea under control. To do so, you can:
- Talk to a sleep expert about possible forms of treatment, such as an oral appliance that stops the airway from becoming blocked.
- If you sleep on your back, try to transition to sleeping on your side.
- Since obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea, you can try losing weight to improve your symptoms.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air, which can decrease congestion and open your airways.
A sleep dentist or a sleep physician may be able to suggest other possible solutions depending on the nature and severity of your sleep apnea. The most important thing is to seek care quickly; after all, the longer sleep apnea is ignored, the more likely it is to take its toll on your body!
About the Author
Dr. Mitch Conditt has over 35 years of dental experience, and he has completed extensive training in order to be able to specialize in sleep dentistry. If you take his sleep quiz, he can determine whether you’re at risk for sleep apnea. If you are, you can schedule an appointment to learn more about the effects of sleep apnea on the body and what you can do about them by visiting his website or calling (817) 527-8500.