Over 9,000 people Google search 'Can Sleep Apnea Kill You' each month. Often people are nervous about the idea of treatment options for sleep apnea and so they ignore their symptoms, hoping it will go away on their own.
You might face death if you don't take it seriously and let the conditions continue.
Repeated interruptions in breathing can lead to oxygen deprivation, which strains the heart and other vital organs. You can also do a quick test to see if you have sleep apnea by clicking on our quiz, ''
Leaving the condition untreated can be a major leading cause to develop other health issues. These may include stroke, diabetes, blood pressure, and other dangerous heart diseases. Sleep apnea can kill you through complications such as arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) and pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs).
The presence of these conditions significantly heightens the risk of heart failure and other life-threatening cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, sleep apnea can substantially impact various other health conditions. When a person has sleep apnea, they experience repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to oxygen deprivation and elevated carbon dioxide levels in the body.
The best person to treat sleep apnea is a sleep doctor rather than your general doctor.
What is a sleep doctor?
Sleep doctors are typically medical professionals with specialized training in sleep medicine and a background in internal medicine, pulmonology, neurology, or psychiatry. They possess extensive knowledge regarding various sleep disorders, including their causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatment methods.
Dr. Avinesh Bhar s a fellowship-trained and board-certified in sleep and pulmonary medicine. He has been in practice for over seven years following the completion of his fellowships at Washington University in St Louis and the University of Tennessee, Memphis. He also holds a MBA from the University of Chicago. He is licensed in these states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, South Carolina and Texas. He will be able to handle your sleep treatment from the comfort of your own home.
Why Can Sleep Apnea Kill?
Sleep apnea often results in excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and poor concentration. It increases the risk of accidents, including motor vehicle accidents and workplace incidents, and the severity of existing respiratory diseases like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Respiratory infections and other lung-related diseases can occur in addition to sleep apnea. It becomes difficult to perform any surgery for such patients, increasing the risks of death.
Interrupted breathing and decreased oxygen levels can pose challenges during anesthesia and may prolong recovery times. It's important to note that while sleep apnea can impact these health conditions, treating sleep apnea can also have a positive effect.
Proper management of sleep apnea by a sleep doctor, like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), oral appliance therapy, or lifestyle changes, can reduce the risk.
How Do You Test for Sleep Apnea?
Once you have identified certain symptoms of sleep apnea, it is crucial to seek a proper medical diagnosis from a sleep doctor. There are two types of sleep apnea tests available for accurate diagnosis:
It involves undergoing an overnight sleep apnea test at a specialized sleep clinic. During the test, you will be connected to sleep monitoring equipment that records various physiological parameters such as heart rate, breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, brain activity, lung function, and movements of your arms and legs while you sleep.
At-home sleep apnea tests
To avoid continuous visits to the doctor, you are sometimes provided with a breathing monitor. This sleep test allows you to track your breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and other relevant health indicators overnight or for a few consecutive nights.
Both tests aim to gather essential data to evaluate your sleep patterns and identify any signs of sleep apnea. Considering your choice and symptoms, a physician may choose between the two devices. Seeking proper diagnosis through these tests is crucial in determining the presence and severity of sleep apnea and guiding appropriate treatment decisions.
How does sleep apnea impact life expectancy?
Individuals under 50 who suffer from sleep apnea have an estimated life expectancy of 8 to 18 years. However, it's crucial to note that receiving appropriate treatment can significantly extend their lifespan and reduce the likelihood of experiencing additional health complications compared to those who remain untreated.
Can sleep apnea cause death during sleep?
Yes, in some cases, sleep apnea can lead to death during sleep. While relatively rare, severe or untreated sleep apnea can result in life-threatening events, such as cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, or strokes. When a person has sleep apnea, they experience repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to oxygen deprivation and elevated carbon dioxide levels in the body. These episodes of reduced oxygen levels can strain the cardiovascular system and potentially trigger fatal complications, particularly in individuals with underlying health conditions. An accurate diagnosis and treatment should be sought when dealing with sleep apnea to prevent such adverse events.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Me?
Metabolic Health: Sleep apnea is associated with metabolic disturbances, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance. Sleep apnea can affect the onset or progression of type 2 diabetes. Those suffering from sleep apnea may also gain weight or have difficulty losing weight, as it can disrupt hormonal regulation related to appetite and metabolism.
Mental Health: There is a correlation between sleep apnea and various mental health issues. Prolonged sleep deprivation and inadequate sleep quality can contribute to mood disorders affecting mood and anxiety. Furthermore, it can negatively impact cognitive function, memory, and concentration, affecting overall mental well-being and daily functioning.
Risk Factors Associated With Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea risk factors are not solely limited to age or weight, but being older or carrying excess weight does increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea. Here are some important risk factors, both short-term and chronic, that you should be aware of if you suspect you have sleep apnea:
- Overweight or obesity
- Larger neck circumference
- Narrowed airway or anatomical abnormalities
- Growing age
- Family Members with a disease history of sleep apnea
- Uncontrolled consumption of alcohol and sedatives
- Tobacco consumption through smoking
- Various allergies / nasal blockage or conjunction
- History of medical conditions heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- Male gender (men, in general, have a higher risk)
- Women who are going through menopause
What If I Have Mild Sleep Apnea?
While not as severe as moderate or severe cases, mild sleep apnea should not be taken lightly. Although it may not immediately endanger your life, it can still harm your health and well-being. Even in mild instances, sleep apnea can result in daytime drowsiness, impaired concentration, fatigue, and reduced cognitive function. Over time, it can also elevate the risk of developing cardiovascular issues like hypertension, heart disease, and strokes.
Furthermore, mild sleep apnea has the potential to progress and worsen if left untreated. Addressing sleep apnea at any severity level is crucial to prevent further health. Seeking advice from a sleep doctor and considering appropriate treatment options are strongly recommended, even for cases of mild sleep apnea.
What Are the Best Sleep Positions?
If you have sleep apnea, your position can heavily affect your sleep quality. It's advised to sleep in a position when lying on your back as it helps to relieve the condition. The Sleep Better Council advises you to sleep on your left side to deal with sleep apnea.