Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?

Sleep apnea affects millions of people and can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated. This article delves into the potential risks and complications associated with sleep apnea and why it's essential to recognize the symptoms and seek proper diagnosis and treatment.
Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?

Sleep apnea is a common but potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that affects many people worldwide. According to the Journal of Sleep Medicine, around 29.4 million adults, which makes up 12% of the adult population in the U.S., have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If left untreated, this condition can lead to several health complications, including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and even death. Therefore, it's essential to be aware of sleep apnea's severity, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. This article will provide readers with a detailed guide that aims to educate them about sleep apnea, its associated risks, and steps they can take to manage and treat this condition.

Sleep Apnea Overview

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes disrupted breathing while sleeping. This disorder can lead to several complications as individuals may experience short episodes where the body struggles to maintain proper breathing. The different types of sleep apnea include obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is the most common type and occurs when the muscles in the throat relax, causing the airway to narrow or be blocked. This narrowed airway restricts the air to the lungs, causing snoring and other symptoms.

Here are the three types of sleep apnea and their characteristics:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

  • It is the most common type that occurs due to the relaxation of the muscles in the throat, which causes a narrowing or complete blockage of the airway.

  • Common symptoms include snoring, gasping for air, loud breathing, and daytime sleepiness.

  • Risk factors for OSA include obesity, smoking, alcohol intake, high blood pressure, and a family history of OSA.

  • OSA can cause several health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

  • This occurs due to a failure of the brain to send signals to the muscles that control the breathing process.

  • CSA is less common than OSA and is often related to certain medical conditions such as stroke, heart failure, or Parkinson’s disease.

  • Common symptoms of CSA include breathing cessation during sleep, difficulty staying asleep, and sudden awakenings at night.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS)

  • Also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, CSAS is a combination of OSA and CSA.

  • It is often found in individuals who have been treated for OSA but continue to experience issues with breathing during sleep.

  • The symptoms of CSAS include loud snoring, gasping for air, and sudden awakenings.

Overall, it's essential to understand the differences between these types to determine the best treatment options available.

Central Sleep Apnea, on the other hand, occurs due to a failure in communication between the brainstem and the respiratory muscles that control breathing. Consequently, the brain may not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing or may even send the wrong signals, leading to breathing disruptions. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Understanding the different types of sleep apnea and their underlying causes can help individuals seek proper diagnosis and treatment.

Who Is Susceptible For Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a common yet serious sleep disorder that can lead to various health complications if left untreated. Unfortunately, it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or fitness levels. Certain medical conditions, lifestyle factors, and genetics can contribute to the development of it. Understanding the factors that contribute to the onset of obstructive sleep apnea is crucial to identify those at risk and seek early diagnosis and treatment. This section aims to discuss in detail the risk factors associated with sleep apnea and help identify those susceptible to this disorder.

Here is a list of risk factors that can predispose an individual to sleep apnea:

  1. Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop sleep apnea due to the excess fat deposits in their airways.

  2. Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop sleep apnea. However, the risk for women increases after menopause.

  3. Age: Sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in adults over the age of 40.

  4. Family history: Genetics is a significant factor in the development of sleep apnea. If parents or grandparents have had sleep apnea, there is an increased risk.

  5. Lifestyle factors: Smoking, alcohol consumption, and sedentary lifestyle are all factors that can increase the risk of developing this condition.

  6. Medical conditions: Sleep apnea is more common among individuals with certain medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

  7. Anatomical abnormalities: People with a deviated septum, large tonsils, or tongue are more likely to develop sleep apnea.

  8. Medications: Certain medications such as sedatives and tranquilizers can relax the muscles in the throat, making sleep apnea more likely.

  9. Hormonal changes: Women are more likely to develop sleep apnea after menopause when their hormone levels change.

Knowing these risk factors can help individuals identify their susceptibility to sleep apnea and take necessary steps for early diagnosis and treatment.

Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if left untreated. When breathing is repeatedly stopped and started during sleep, the body does not receive enough oxygen, which can lead to several complications. It can cause hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and more. Studies show that individuals with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to experience heart attacks and other fatal heart-related incidents.

Here is a list of life-threatening conditions or complications that can be caused by sleep apnea if left untreated:

  1. High blood pressure: Sleep apnea can cause changes in the body that increase blood pressure and can lead to hypertension.

  2. Heart disease: Sleep apnea can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and irregular heartbeat.

  3. Diabetes: Sleep apnea is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes.

  4. Obesity: Sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight or obese, which can lead to further health complications.

  5. Depression: Sleep apnea can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  6. Accidents: Sleep apnea can lead to daytime fatigue and drowsiness, leading to an increased risk of accidents, especially while driving.

  7. Cognitive impairment: Untreated sleep apnea can cause cognitive problems such as trouble with memory and concentration.

  8. Sudden death: Although rare, sleep apnea can cause a sudden fatal cardiac event due to the strain that it puts on the heart.

Therefore, it is essential to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea and seek appropriate medical care to avoid these life-threatening complications.

Furthermore, this condition can cause daytime fatigue, leading to poor reaction time and concentration. As a result, individuals with untreated sleep apnea have a higher risk of accidents and injuries. The constant sleep disruptions caused by sleep apnea can also increase the risk of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

In conclusion, while sleep apnea may not kill an individual directly, it can lead to several deadly complications. Therefore, it's essential to recognize the symptoms and seek timely diagnosis and treatment to avoid the health risks associated with this disease.


The first line of treatment for sleep apnea is usually lifestyle changes, which may include losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and regular exercise. For moderate to severe sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is generally recommended. CPAP machines use pressurized air to keep the airway open during sleep, preventing pauses in breathing. Other options for sleep apnea treatment include oral devices and surgery, but these are usually reserved for more severe cases.

When it comes to health insurance coverage for sleep apnea treatment, it largely depends on individual policies. Many health insurance plans cover CPAP machines as they are the standard treatment for sleep apnea. Some plans may also cover oral devices and surgery depending on the plan and the severity of the condition. It is essential to check with your health insurance provider to determine coverage options and potential out-of-pocket costs for sleep apnea treatment.

Coverage Guru is an online platform that provides health insurance quotes for individuals seeking insurance coverage for sleep apnea treatment and other medical needs. The platform allows users to compare insurance quotes from different providers and choose the one that best meets their healthcare needs and budget. By using Coverage Guru, individuals can easily find coverage options that include sleep apnea treatment options such as CPAP machines and other associated medical expenses. This makes the insurance process more straightforward and accessible for individuals seeking treatment for sleep apnea, empowering them to make informed decisions about their healthcare options.

Overall, the most effective treatment for sleep apnea can typically be covered by health insurance. However, it is always best to check with your provider to ensure you are aware of the coverage options and potential out-of-pocket expenses.

Life Expectancy With Treated Sleep Apnea

According to Sterling VA Dentist, patients with sleep apnea who are under the age of 50 have a life expectancy of approximately 8-18 years. However, research has shown that patients who receive proper treatment can have longer lifespans with fewer associated health complications compared to those who do not receive treatment.

Providing proper treatment for sleep apnea can significantly reduce the risk of premature death, with studies indicating that treatment reduces the risk of death up to three times compared to those with untreated sleep apnea. Additionally, treating sleep apnea can reduce the risk of stroke by almost 50% and lower the likelihood of a heart attack by up to five times when compared to those without treatment.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that can cause several health complications if left untreated. With the right diagnosis and treatment, individuals with sleep apnea can significantly improve their overall health and well-being, reducing the risk of life-threatening conditions and complications. While anyone can develop sleep apnea, certain factors such as obesity, age, genetics, and lifestyle choices can increase the risk of this condition.

Therefore, it's necessary to learn more about sleep apnea, be aware of its symptoms, and seek proper treatment to avoid potential health risks. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve quality of life and longevity, enabling individuals to lead a more productive and fulfilling lifestyle. By recognizing the dangers of sleep apnea and prioritizing good sleep hygiene, we can all take an active role in ensuring our long-term health and well-being.

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