Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic, Sandyford, Dublin, D18 E7P4 l Tel: +353 1 531 0088

The Effects Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

You’re not alone if you have ever woken up gasping for air or had a loved one notice your breathing stopped while you slept.

Experts cite that sleep apnea affects about one billion people around the world.

Some further surveys in Ireland say that 5% of middle-aged men will suffer from sleep apnoea. It’s usually considered that we know about half the people who have this so half of it is undiagnosed. If we extrapolate out in the Irish population it equates to over 100,000 people. While it is more common in men it can affect women as well. And though middle aged men are affected more in general – our experience shows that sleep apnea can effect people of any age. 

“Sleep apnea is a devastating disease. Apnea means ‘without breath,’ so someone with sleep apnea is sleeping without breathing,” says Dr. Crystal Morris, sleep medicine specialist.

What Are Common Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea?

Many people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it. Symptoms vary from person to person and may be mild, moderate, or severe. Some people with sleep apnea are asymptomatic, which means they don’t experience symptoms even though they have the condition.

The symptoms of sleep apnea can be divided into daytime and nighttime symptoms. All of them can negatively influence a person’s quality of life and professional performance, increasing, for instance, their risk of vehicle accidents.

Nighttime symptoms may include: 

  • Snoring
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Choking
  • Nocturia
  • Sweating at night
  • Waking up many times each night
  • Observed interrupted breathing by a bed partner

Daytime symptoms include:  

  • Problems with memory, concentration, and intellectual tasks 
  • Irritability and mood swings 
  • Excessive sleepiness 
  • Non-restorative sleep
  • Emotional imbalance
  • Morning headaches
  • Decreased libido
  • Fatigue 

Symptoms progress gradually, and many patients underestimate the severity of their sleepiness until their daytime function and activities are severely affected.

The Effects Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea can have wide-ranging effects on your health and longevity — it disrupts several systems and functions in your body, including the nervous system, immune system, and your metabolism. 

When these systems aren’t working properly, it’s harder for your body to heal, manage energy, or eliminate threats. Without those vital restorative processes,  widespread damage in the body’s organs and tissues can occur, eventually leading to diseases. 

Many people don’t realise that sleep apnea not only impacts your quality of sleep and prevents you from getting proper rest, but can have additional devastating consequences if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. Untreated sleep apnea can negatively affect your energy, mood, relationships, as well as your ability to work and drive safely in the short term. And in the long term, it is linked to other chronic and life-threatening conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Increased Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Researchers have found that people with moderate to severe sleep apnea were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes even if they didn’t have any other risk factors. 

Researchers think inflammation, low oxygen levels, and the way sleep apnea disrupts nervous system function are responsible for the increased risk. They also found that people with diabetes and sleep apnea had difficulty controlling their blood sugar and were more likely to have complications.

Increased Stroke Risk 

Sleep apnea has been identified as an independent risk factor for stroke. Researchers also found that untreated sleep apnea could lead to a recurrence in patients with previous strokes. 

Sleep apnea triggers the release of chemicals that cause inflammation. These chemicals damage blood vessels, which can eventually cut off blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. 

Increased Risk Of Heart Attacks And Other Heart Diseases

Researchers have established that sleep apnea significantly increases the risk of heart attacks and coronary artery disease

We mentioned that sleep apnea can lead to damaged blood vessels in the brain and cause a stroke; it can also damage the blood vessels supplying the heart, which can cause a heart attack. 

In addition, the restricted access to oxygen that occurs with sleep apnea can lead to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. 

Research has also identified sleep apnea as an independent risk factor for several heart and blood vessel conditions, including heart failure, arrhythmias, and hypertension.  


Though the relationship between sleep apnea and glaucoma is still relatively unclear, research has shown that people with sleep apnea may have an increased risk of developing the condition, which can cause blindness. 

Increased Weight Gain

Sleep apnea may also make people more likely to gain weight. Researchers think not sleeping well at night and daytime sleepiness alters your metabolism — how your body stores and uses energy — leading to weight gain. Sleep apnea also changes the way your body produces hormones related to appetite and satiety: leptin, a hormone that promotes feeling satisfied after meals, is reduced, while ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, is increased. 

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis And Treatment

The good news is sleep apnea is incredibly treatable. A doctor can diagnose the condition — they may ask questions about your sleep, mood, energy levels, and how long you have had symptoms. Doctors may check your blood pressure, heart rate, and weight.

Additionally, they may ask you to undergo tests such as polysomnography or home sleep tests.

  • Polysomnography. During this test, equipment that monitors your breathing patterns, body movements, blood oxygen levels, lung action, and brain and heart activity are attached to your body while you sleep.
  • Home sleep tests. Your doctor might give you tests to do at home to confirm the diagnosis.

These tests usually measure your blood pressure, heart rate, airflow, breathing pattern, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.

Treatment Options

While the side effects for untreated sleep apnea are scary, the good news is there are effective treatment options that can help protect you from developing those conditions. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, talk to your healthcare provider for testing and treatment plans — sleep apnea is incredibly treatable, so there’s no reason to suffer in silence. 

The treatment for sleep apnea ranges. 

Lifestyle changes. Your doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to control your symptoms. This could mean tweaking your diet or exercising more to help shed any extra pounds that may be contributing to the condition. 

Oral Appliance Therapy : Dental Sleep Medicine is an area of clinical expertise that focuses on the management of sleep-relatedbreathing disorders, including snoring, noisy disturbed sleep, sleep apnoea, CPAP intolerance and sleep bruxism (teeth grinding), with the design and fitting of customised oral / dental appliances. Click here to download the Beacon Dental Sleep Patient Brochure

What is Oral Appliance Therapy?

An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. The device fits similar to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer and prevents the airway from collapsing by either supporting the tongue or jaw in a forward position, thereby opening the airway.

With a custom-fitted oral appliance, we can help minimise or eliminate the symptoms of Sleep Disordered Breathing. Sleep apnoea (in mild to moderate cases) including loud snoring, gasping , and unpleasant noises.

The device can also act as an alternative treatment for patients (on medical advice only) who have been prescribed CPAP by their medical consultant, finding it difficult to adhere to this therapy for the management of their sleep apnoea condition.

How does Oral Appliance Therapy Work?

Oral appliances hold the lower jaw in a forward position, dilates the upper airway and preventing it from collapsing. This helps to:

  • eliminate or reduce snoring noise levels
  • improve sleep quality and general energy levels on wakening
  • treat sleep apnoea disease progression
  • improves bed partners sleep quality of life.

The Beacon Dental Clinic provide the following additional services

  • Referral from consultant led medical diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing, noisy loud snoring and suspected sleep apnoea.
  • CBT referral or medical advice for sleep disorder management.
  • Dietician and weight management referral if indicated.
  • Dental health care education.
  • Dental Hygienist service and dental health care education

  • Advanced restorative prosthodontic care
  • Routine in office dental healthcare

Process of our Oral Appliance Therapy Program


If you are referred to the Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic by a medical consultant, we will then assess your suitability for Oral Appliance Therapy. This will involve a dental examination, an x-ray evaluation and trial lower jaw advancement as indicated.  Specific smart phone apps will be recommended to assist in the collection of sleep related noise and disturbances so as to assist in overall management.

If you have not been refereed by a medical practitioner we will assist you with the appropriate assessment and arrange any necessary referral or further investigation as part of your overall management.

Treatment Interventions

In the Treatment phase, you will be fitted with an oral appliance by an experienced restorative dentist with expertise in the field of dental sleep medicine, who will control and monitor your progress and response to treatment. All patients of the Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic are seen one week and one month following initial appliance delivery. You will also be provided with clear instructions as to the best use and care of your oral appliance.

Follow up appointments

Following habituation to appliance wearing nightly we will arrange (if necessary) for further evaluation of the efficacy of the therapy. This will involve specific user friendly overnight home based testing with sensor technology. This will be activated through a straightforward phone app download.

All patients with sleep apnoea diagnosis are referred back at this stage to their medical consultant for evaluation. The oral appliance is re-evaluated at the Beacon Dental Clinic at specified internals to evaluate its mechanical integrity and performance.

For further information on Sleep Apnoea Treatment, contact us today 



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Beacon Dental Sleep Medicine Clinic is based in the Beacon Dental Clinic, Beacon Consultants Clinic, Dublin, D18 E7P4, Ireland

Tel: +353 1 531 0088 | Fax: +353 1 213 5645 | Email:




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