Can Sleep Apnea Cause Death?

Man lying in bed sleeping

If you just found out that you have sleep apnea, you may be wondering if it can cause death. While the condition itself will not kill anyone directly in most cases, it can lead to death if serious enough or from additional complications. On the surface, sleep apnea may appear to be an ordinary sleep disorder. However, having sufficient sleep is vital to daily life. With sleep apnea, your body is not able to fully recover during sleep because you are constantly disturbed by the pauses in breathing. These pauses can render deep sleep impossible as it constantly brings the body out of REM sleep, resulting in higher stress levels and decreased ability to concentrate. Below are some of the complications of sleep apnea that can potentially lead to death.

Cardiovascular Complications

When a person experience sleep apnea, they do not only experience a lack of air in the body but also a significantly lower level of oxygen in the blood. As a result, more stress is placed upon the heart to help circulate what little oxygen there is in the blood. In fact, 2 studies from the journal ‘Sleep’ has published that people with severe sleep apnea tend to die prematurely because of heart issues. Conversely, a study at Yale University showed that people with obstructive sleep apnea are generally at a higher risk of suffering from a stroke. This finding was supported by research done by the University of Toronto that states people with sleep apnea have a higher risk of stroke than those not suffering from this condition.

Workplace and Automobile Accidents

People with sleep apnea tend to be at higher risk from dying because of workplace and automobile accidents. You see, when you have sleep apnea, you lose your concentration and attention. This means that you run a far greater risk of getting yourself into an accident while driving or at work. Because sleep apnea disrupts the quality of sleep, those with this disorder typically are much more tired and far less attentive than those who’ve had a good nights sleep. Sleep apnea patients may even fall asleep as they are talking with other people. This increases their risk for getting into workplace and automobile accidents and is one of the most dangerous complications of the disorder.

So, Can Sleep Apnea Cause Death?

Based on what has been presented, the answer is rather complicated. Directly, sleep apnea is not known to cause death. The average time for the stoppage of breath in sleep apnea is about 30 seconds. This will not decrease the body’s oxygen levels to fatal levels. However, sleep apnea can indirectly cause death through its effects on an individual’s ability to concentrate during the day, as well as effects on an individual’s mental health as a whole. Additionally, if the sleep apnea is severe enough, death could be a possibility. If you find yourself exhibiting any of the major signs of sleep apnea, then contact your doctor right away and conduct a sleep study. Sleep apnea can be easily managed through the use of CPAP equipment, and the sooner you manage this condition, the lesser chance you have of developing these potentially fatal complications.

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by Michelle Polissaint