Can you die from sleep apnea?
Yes, sleep apnea is that serious of a condition. It’s not just about constantly feeling tired or snoring – both things people think they can just ignore and deal with. When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing when you sleep. Depending on how severe your sleep apnea is, you could stop breathing hundreds of times a night. This disrupts your sleep cycle and prevents you from entering the deep stages of sleep where your body repairs itself.
When your body can’t repair itself, your risk for other life-threatening conditions like stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and others is increased. It can also make you a drowsy driver, putting you at an increased risk for causing an accident and hurting yourself and others.
Sudden cardiac death can also be a consequence of untreated sleep apnea. This could be because those with sleep apnea experience events called nocturnal ischemias, which happen at night while you sleep when your heart doesn’t get enough blood. These events tend to happen when the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart become blocked or narrowed. Often the heart can get enough blood through these constricted arteries while you are sleeping, but it cannot cope under stressful events like the continued lack of oxygen you experience throughout the night when you suffer from sleep apnea.
Treating sleep apnea could help reduce the risk for these life-threatening conditions, so talk to your doctor about any concerns you are having. Never dismiss feelings of constant fatigue as something you have to deal with by drinking an extra cup of coffee or your snoring as an annoyance your bed partner will learn to live with. Your body is trying to tell you something, so make an appointment to speak with your doctor.
Have you been treated for sleep apnea and seen a difference in how you feel? Post a comment below to share your experience.
Ludka et al. Sleep apnea, cardiac arrhythmias, and sudden death. Tex Heart Inst J 2011;38(4):340-343
Subject: About Sleep Apnea