Can You Die From Sleep Apnea?

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It might not surprise you that the majority of Americans suffer from sleep issues and disorders, including sleep apnea.

Because it’s so common, people don’t often ask about the sleep apnea death risk, but it is a serious disorder without careful management.

can you die from sleep apnea

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can you die from sleep apnea?”, keep reading…


What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing either stops or is interrupted while they are sleeping.

This can be dangerous for obvious reasons, because when breathing ceases, it stops the supply of oxygen to the brain and body, which can be harmful if left untreated.

The first thing to know about sleep apnea is that there are two types of it.

The first, more common, type is called “obstructive sleep apnea” or OSA. If you have OSA, your breathing stops because the airway is blocked by the soft tissue of the throat.

The second type, “central sleep apnea,” is not as common.

The airway is not physically blocked with this type of sleep apnea, but your brain stops signaling the muscles that you use to breathe.

Both forms of sleep apnea should be taken seriously and can have many negative health effects.

is sleep apnea deadly

CPAP mask for sleep apnea (By Larry and Teddy Page: CC BY 2.0 licence)

Are You at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

A wide range of people are susceptible to this sleep disorder.

Even children can suffer from it, so if you or your child has some of the following risk factors and symptoms, you may want to visit a doctor.

Here are some of the more common risk factors:

  • Being male
  • Over the age of 40
  • Being overweight
  • If you suffer from GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • If you have large tonsils, a small jaw, or a large tongue
  • Nasal obstructions, like blocked sinuses due to either a deviated septum or allergies

If you have any of these risk factors — particularly in combination with each other — it may be worth checking with your doctor if you’re likely to develop sleep apnea.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Loud snoring, interrupted breathing during sleep, headaches and fatigue can all be signs of sleep apnea.

You may also suffer from interrupted sleep, insomnia, or restlessness if you have sleep apnea.

Even when treated with over the counter medication, many of these symptoms can persist if their main cause is sleep apnea.

Can You Die From Sleep Apnea?

So, is sleep apnea deadly?

Sadly, if you do not get treatment for sleep apnea, it can have a lot of negative effects that will be harmful to your health.

The less severe effects can cause those who suffer from sleep apnea to feel lethargic and unable to concentrate, which can cause problems in their day to day life.

Though being overweight is a risk factor, sleep apnea can also cause weight gain, which can also lead to problems with feeling fatigued and depressed.

Sleep apnea death is usually not directly related to the sleep disorder itself, but sleep apnea can cause many other issues and symptoms that can lead to fatal health complications.

The lack of oxygen can really take a toll on your body and lead to things like high blood pressure, stroke, or heart failure/attack. It has also been linked to illnesses like diabetes, ADHD, and depression.

sleep apnea death

The obstruction of the airways in a sleep apnea patient. Credits to Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons

Because sleep apnea generally does not directly cause death, it can make it difficult to track the number of sleep apnea deaths, but there are a few studies out there that have tried to quantify how many fatalities are linked to sleep apnea yearly.

The fatigue that sleep apnea causes can is often linked to motor vehicle accidents, which can result in severe injury and even death. A recent study found that people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are up to five times more likely to be in an automobile accident than those who did not have this sleep disorder.

What is even more frightening, is that most of the patients with OSA did not report that they felt sleepy or tired, so they were unaware of the ill effects of their disorder on their driving.

Because of this, if you fear you or your loved one may suffer from sleep apnea, it is best to get it treated as soon as possible.

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

The good news is, there are lots of ways to treat sleep apnea. Though this sleep disorder has a slew of scary health effects, it is quite simple to seek treatment for it.

Your first step would be to contact your doctor. You can either seek out your primary care physician, or visit an ENT doctor. They are likely to recommend you get a sleep study done. Sleep studies are usually held at a clinic or hospital.

While you sleep, technicians, doctors, and specialized equipment monitor many parts of your body, including your lungs, heart, and brain. The technician will collect data throughout the night and then a doctor will review your results.

Once your results have been determined, your doctor may recommend a CPAP machine, which is used while your sleep to create positive airway pressure so your airway does not become blocked during the night. Your doctor could also suggest other treatments, including surgery, which will enable your airway to stay open while you sleep.

>>> Read about the best CPAP pillows

Many of these treatments lead to improved oxygenation throughout the night which can limit the harmful effects of sleep apnea and improve your overall health.


So that’s everything you need to know about sleep apnea death.

What do you think — is sleep apnea deadly?


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