A study published in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that the sleep condition raises metabolic and cardiovascular stress.
It is a common disorder where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.
Scientists discovered that even if OSA is left untreated for just a few days it can can elevate blood sugar and fat levels, stress hormones and blood pressure.
“This is one of the first studies to show real-time effects of OSA on metabolism during the night,” said Jonathan Jun, senior study author and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and Lancet Respiratory Medicine revealed that it affects 20 to 30 per cent of adults.
It can have a big impact on quality of life as well as raising risk of certain conditions, according to the NHS.
These include diabetes and heart disease.
In the study, researchers looked at 31 patients who had OSA with an average age of 50.8 and average BMI that indicated obesity.
Obesity is a common characteristic of those with the sleep condition.
The study authors found an association between OSA and elevated heart rate, reduced blood oxygen, as well as increased levels of free fatty acids, glucose, cortisol and blood pressure.
Without continuous positive airway pressure – which normal sleepers have – blood pressure is likely to increase, risking cardiovascular disease.
The study authors say the research provides further evidence that OSA is not a side-effect of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but can directly aggravate these conditions.
According to the NHS, symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing and repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting.
Additionally, some people may experience night sweats.
Sufferers are often unaware they have a problem, but can feel very tired during the day.