Sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing repetitively pauses, while you sleep. It can happen several times during the night, ultimately affecting your mental clarity and attentiveness the next day. Sleep apnea though does more than make you heavy-eyed the following day. When left untreated for long, it can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and other long-term health problems.

In this post, we will try to explore some of the effects of sleep apnea, ranging from its effects on the respiratory system to the reproductive system.

Respiratory system

By depriving your body and brain of oxygen while you sleep, apnea can aggravate symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. You might find yourself having more difficulties exercising than usual and gasping for breath now and then. 

Digestive system

If you are suffering from sleep apnea, you got high chances of having liver scarring, high-than-normal levels of liver enzymes, and fatty liver disease. In addition, apnea can aggravate heartburn and other symptoms of GERD, which can disrupt your sleep even more.

Endocrine system

People with sleep apnea have a higher probability of developing insulin resistance, an illness in which the body cells do not take the appropriate action against the hormone insulin. When your body cells do not absorb insulin like they are supposed to, your blood sugar level goes up and you become prone to type-2 diabetes. 

Additionally, sleep apnea has been linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of heart disease risk factors which include high LDL cholesterol levels, larger-than-normal waist circumference, high blood sugar level, and high blood pressure.

Nervous system

One form of sleep apnea referred to as central sleep apnea (CSA), is caused by an interruption in the brain’s signals, which encourages the breathing process. This kind of sleep apnea can also give rise to neurological symptoms like tingling and numbness.  

Circulatory and cardiovascular systems

Sleep apnea has been associated with high blood pressure and obesity, which is risky for the heart. Meaning, if you have apnea, you have higher chances of experiencing an abnormal heart rhythm, which could augment your risk of getting a stroke. Also, heart failure is more prevalent in people with sleep apnea.

Reproductive system

Sleep apnea can lower your desire to have sex. Actually, in men, it could cause erectile dysfunction and minimize their ability to have kids. 

Other systems

Other common effects of sleep apnea include:

  • headache
  • trouble paying attention
  • dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
  • irritability


Sleep apnea can interrupt your sleep and put you at a risk of acquiring several severe health conditions, but there are ways to curb it. Remedies, such as oral appliances and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), help maintain steady oxygen supply into your lungs while you sleep.