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Is it Possible For Sleep Apnea to Cause Death?

While it is very rare, sleep apnea death can happen to someone suffering from one of the apnea disorders, depending on the severity of the disorder and overall health of the individual. There are three types of sleep apnea and all of these can be dangerous in extreme cases, especially if they are not diagnosed at an early stage.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a form of the disorder which is characterized by the upper airway being partially or fully blocked during sleep. This blockage causes a knock-on effect whereby the lungs, diaphragm and chest muscles have to work overtime just to pump blood around the body and keep the vital organs healthy. 

If you have this disorder you are at more risk of sudden cardiac death. This can be because your heart has to work harder than usual, to keep you alive.

Central sleep apnea (CSA) happens when your brain stops sending out the correct signals required to ensure your body is breathing regularly while you sleep. It's not that you cannot breathe because of an actual blockage in your airway, but rather that the muscles do not even try to breathe. 

Your body should then jolt you out of your sleep to try and restart the breathing process again. There have been documented cases linking central sleep apnea with strokes. If there is a disturbance in the blood supply flowing to the brain this can cause an incident.

Mixed sleep apnea (MSA) is a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea. Medical studies show that more often than not it starts out as central apnea and then develops into obstructive apnea. One of these disorders can have detrimental effects on long-term health but both combined can be extremely dangerous. 

 sleep apnea deathGeneral Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Anger issues
  • Dry mouth
  • Snoring

Sleep apnea death, like its name might suggest, is where death can occur or from experiencing one or more of the sleep apneas for a prolonged period of time. This is why it is crucial to contact your physician as soon as you or your spouse suspect that there is more going on than just simple snoring.


Statistics suggest that the most common condition apneas can cause is cardiac arrest. This can be brought on by the sheer amount of pressure that is put upon the heart having to try and counteract the prolonged effects of sleep apnea.

Depending on the severity of the sleep apnea, the sufferer can be woken up more than 30 times an hour. This equates to once every 2 minutes! People who suffer from chronic sleep apnea usually wake up in the morning feeling exhausted and like they have not been to bed at all. 

This can be extremely hazardous if you have to drive for long periods or operate dangerous machinery. Sleep studies show that stress levels can be higher in patients that go for a time period without proper sleep. High levels of stress have been linked with cardiac arrest and stroke patients. 

Different types of sleep apnea have been found to be more common in people that suffer from obesity. The relationship between sleep apnea and weight gain can be complex. An increase of fat tissue surrounding the neck area can constrict and put pressure on the muscles that work around the clock to keep the throat open, and allow a continuous flow of air to the lungs. 

When the air supply to the lungs is interrupted or stopped, even for small amounts of time, the oxygen saturation level can drop dangerously low. Oxygen saturation levels of below 80% can compromise proper functioning of vital organs, like the heart and the brain. 

sleep apnea deathLong term exposure to low oxygen levels can drastically increase the chances of cardiac arrest or a stroke. Research shows that if the breathing is stopped for a collective 11 or more minutes per night over an extended period of time, the risk of fatal heart failure or cardiac arrest increases significantly.

There are tests and treatments available to help counter the effects of sleep apnea and to prevent the condition from causing the sufferer to decease. 

A nocturnal polysomnography test involves a machine that measures heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen levels, brain function and lung activity levels. There are simpler versions of this test that can, in certain cases, be used at home and the results provided to a doctor or specialist for further analysis.

Sleep Apnea Death in Children

Let's get one thing out of the way right now: death from sleep apnea in children is extremely rare. This is because the effects are thought to deteriorate a person’s health over a prolonged period of suffering. Children could be suffering from mild sleep apnea at a young age that could develop into a serious form as they age. So the earlier this condition can be diagnosed, the sooner the preventative methods can be administered to help treat it.  

sleep apnea deathTypes of sleep apnea in children can be far harder to diagnose than in adults. Children that are very young find it difficult to communicate efficiently on how they feel or what is wrong with them because they lack the knowledge to describe the symptoms. Some of these could be bed wetting, night terrors, sleeping in strange positions, or excessive perspiration. 

Premature babies have a higher risk of risk of sleep apnea death because either their respiratory system or brain hasn’t developed to its full potential. They might need to be put on a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP machine

This machine keeps the airway open constantly, which allows a better airflow to the lungs. Research has shown that the pressure used can decrease daytime fatigue and that Nasal CPAP lowers blood pressure. These machines are also used as one of the main ways to treat adults with obstructive sleep apnea, and they are generally considered to be more effective than most other non-surgical options. It is always better to avoid surgery if at all possible and opt for a natural method.

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