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Can You Die From Sleep Apnea?

Dec 18, 2020
· 5 mins read

Can you die from sleep apnea?

The short answer: Yes.

Several studies now link severe obstructive sleep apnea to higher mortality — even after accounting for risk factors such as obesity, and the risk of sleep apnea death increases when the condition is undiagnosed or untreated.

Obstructive sleep apnea involves a decrease or complete halt in airflow that occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway which causes you to stop breathing.

When the body senses it's not getting enough oxygen during sleep, it forces an awakening opening the airways and resuming breathing. Therefore, sleep apnea death is mostly related to the effects it causes on the body and your health in the long run. 

Sleep apnea could be fatal, and its impact on the body shouldn't be ignored.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on The Body

Living with sleep apnea results in a poor quality of life, which entails health consequences that could shorten the lifespan. 

Sleep is essential for wellbeing. Think about it, when you have a rough night or don't get enough sleep, you wake up tired, cranky, and out of sorts. However, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real.

It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk weakening your immune system and making you more vulnerable to sickness. 

Sleep allows both the body and brain to rest and recover from the stress of daily life. When the sleep cycle is interrupted, it prevents the body from entering the deep sleep stages where it repairs itself, elevating the risk for other life-threatening conditions like stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver problems, abnormal cholesterol levels, and diabetes, which have been shown an association to sleep apnea death. 

The chronic sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can result in daytime sleepiness and fatigue and an increased risk of accidents in your daily activities. If you suspect you might have obstructive sleep apnea, consult your doctor.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Treatments

Sleep Apnea Symptoms & Treatment

It can be challenging to identify sleep apnea on your own since the most prominent symptoms only occur when you're asleep. But there are other sleep apnea warning signs that can help you identify your condition, as well as relying on your bed partner's observations. If you notice any of the following less obvious sleep apnea symptoms, please follow-up with your doctor.

  • Frequent, loud snoring.
  • Obstructed breathing during sleep.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Drowsy driving.
  • Waking up short of breath.
  • Waking up frequently to urinate.
  • Chest pain during sleep.
  • Daytime headaches.
  • Mood swings.

Do any of these signs sound familiar? Knowing the symptoms is the first step to determining your condition and possible treatment options. 

Sleep apnea death is attributed to a combination of factors surrounding the central problem of undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea, and a series of risk factors increase the vulnerability of sleep apnea death.

Sleep apnea treatments can include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, quitting smoking, modified sleeping positions, medical devices like a CPAP machine, or surgery. Treating sleep apnea could reduce the risk of life-threatening conditions, which is why symptoms and risk factors should never be dismissed. 

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Effects Of Sleep Apnea on The Body

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. However, certain factors put you at increased risk, including:

Excess weight. 

Fat deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing, and certain health conditions associated with obesity, such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome, can cause OSA.

Narrowed Airways. 

Narrowed airways and enlarged tonsils or adenoids can block your airway, increasing the risk for sleep apnea.

High Blood Pressure.

Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with hypertension.

Chronic Nasal Congestion. 

Consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause: allergies, narrowed airways, or sinus problems. 


Smokers are at a higher risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea.


Obstructive sleep apnea may be prevalent in people with diabetes.


In general, men are twice as likely as premenopausal women to have obstructive sleep apnea. The frequency of obstructive sleep apnea increases in women after menopause.


A family history of obstructive sleep apnea increases the likelihood. 


Research has found an association between asthma and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

These risk factors are closely linked to the development of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and may have implications in sleep apnea death; for this, it is essential to know if you are considered at risk and seek diagnosis and proper management.

Consult with your Doctor

Doctor Consultation

 Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder dangerously on the rise. A Doctor can suspect that you have sleep apnea according to a combination of symptoms and risk factors, as mentioned above, and may order sleep tests or refer you to a certified sleep doctor, who can rule out other conditions. 

A sleep study results are also useful in knowing the severity of your case and determining management or treatment options and their likelihood of success.

The most common treatment that is prevalent with many sleep apnea patients is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy, which provides a steady stream of air through a mask that is worn during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open to prevent pauses in breathing and restore normal oxygen levels. If CPAP therapy is advised, different kinds of masks, machines, and accessories make treatment comfortable and personalized to your specific needs. 

Sleep Apnea Health Complications

Obstructive sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition, and health complications can include:

Excessive daytime fatigue and drowsiness.

Daytime fatigue and irritability can lead to poor concentration and falling asleep at work, while watching TV, or even when driving, increasing the risk of accidents. This may also affect attention or behavior problems for younger generations at school.

Cardiovascular complications. 

Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which can increase the risk of heart disease: heart attack, heart failure, stroke, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). These episodes could lead to sleep apnea death.

Difficulties with medications and surgery. 

Medications, such as sedatives, narcotic analgesics, and general anesthetics that relax the upper airways may worsen obstructive sleep apnea and generate complications after surgery.

Vision problems. 

Obstructive sleep apnea may cause certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma, elevated eye pressure that can damage the essential optic nerve. Luckily, eye-related complications can usually be treated successfully.

As you can see, sleep apnea death is mostly related to the adverse effects of an untreated condition and commonly linked to many medical problems. Early identification and treatment of sleep apnea are essential to help reduce the risk for these life-threatening conditions. 

Take action. Prevention and treatment can enhance your life quality and are your first line of defense against sleep apnea death and its complications. 

  1. Know the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
  2. Understand the Risk Factors
  3. Consult with your Doctor

Think you may have obstructive sleep apnea? It's important to have it checked.

Getting treated reduces your risk of sleep apnea death and will make you sleep better, and feel better, all around.

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