What Can Happen If Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated
According to a recent study, leaving sleep apnea untreated even just for a few days can lead to a series of health consequences such as:
- An increase in blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and stress hormones
- A higher chance of having a heart attack
- A two to three times higher chance of having a stroke
- Cardiovascular disease
Moreover, the more severe a persons sleep apnea is, the higher the risk of an attack or death. According to the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, 42% of deaths in people who suffered severe sleep apnea were caused by heart disease. In clinical terms, severe connotes having an apnea-hypopnea index score of 20 or more respiratory events per hour. Furthermore, those with untreated severe sleep apnea were 5 times more likely to experience a cardiac-related death.
From a functioning perspective, people with untreated sleep apnea may experience:
- Increased daytime fatigue
- An overall lower quality of life
Another issue worth addressing is a significantly increased risk of car accidents due to people falling asleep at the wheel. According to a recent study, those with sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to be the cause of a motor vehicle accident when compared to a control group of drivers within the general population.
For more information, find out what happens if you skip CPAP therapy here.
Sleep Apnoea Can Cause Other Problems
Without treatment, sleep apnoea can lead to:
- a higher chance of having a stroke
- depression or changes in your mood
- a higher chance of having a serious accident caused by tiredness, such as a car accident
- difficulty concentrating at work or school
Sleep apnoea can also be difficult for your partner and put a strain on your relationship with them.
Can Sleep Apnea Kill You
Sanja Jelic, MD, is board-certified in sleep medicine, critical care medicine, pulmonary disease, and internal medicine.
If you happen to be a firsthand witness, it can be a little scary to realize someone has stopped breathing during sleep. While several things can make your breathing stop while you’re asleep, a common cause is sleep apnea. People often ask, “Can sleep apnea kill you?” The answer is that it can have numerous short-term and long-term health consequences and yes, some of them can be life-threatening.
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Sudden Death By Sleep Apnea
In the case of short term effects, sleep apnea can increase chances for sudden death during sleep. In short-term, it can result in a condition called cardiac arrhythmia which can bloc and clog the heart preventing it from performing its function ultimately leading to death. Other sudden sleep deaths as a result of sleep apnea can be caused by atrial fibrillation, heart attack, and in most severe cases, stroke.
Its important to point the connection between sleep apnea and REM sleep. A detailed study has found that obstructive sleep apnea occurs mostly during early morning hours, which coincidentally, occurs when our brain is in the phase of REM sleep. The study also shows that REM sleep occurs more frequently when sleep apnea is occurring.
You shouldnt ignore the symptoms of sleep apnea that manifest through the night, especially because you feel your breathing is being disrupted. Losing breath on constant basis because of sleep apnea can harm your health. It can result in high blood pressure , heart problems and diabetes.
There is a clear link between depression, anxiety and memory problems which can result in Alzheimers disease. As a result of it, you may feel more sleepy, which often can end up in unwanted accidents. Experts proved that it can result in heart attack, strokes and heart arrhythmias. In short, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can have a death outcome for you.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air is unpleasant and scary. Old Town Smiles offers a variety of treatments for snoring and sleep apnea.
Beginning with a simple Home Sleep Screening, it is possible to evaluate for the presence of sleep-disordered breathing. We work closely under the guidance of Board Certified Sleep Physicians in our evaluation when sleep apnea is present.
A removable oral appliance is typically used to relieve symptoms of snoring and mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. This appliance is custom-made to fit the patients mouth. It is designed to help keep the jaws in proper alignment to keep the airways always open during sleep. Home sleep studies help evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy.
A sleep apnea doctor may suggest a CPAP mask, but these can be expensive and inconvenient. For a customized, simple solution schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to learn more about your sleep apnea and snoring options.
Following successful dental sleep medicine therapy, our patients report feeling more alert and active, have higher metabolism.
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Strokes And Transient Ischemic Attacks
In a stroke, blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted. Oxygen and nutrients cant get through, and brain cells start dying within minutes.
Sleep apnea is associated with strokes by lowering your oxygen levels. That starts a chain reaction in the brain that leads to impaired blood flow.
A stroke can kill you. Or it may partially paralyze you. That may leave you having to re-learn basic skills like walking and eating.
In a TIA, blood flow is only blocked for a few minutes. Still, in the early minutes, its impossible to tell it apart from a stroke. Also, TIAs often warn that a stroke is coming.
A stroke or TIA is always a medical emergency. The faster you get help, the less brain damage youll have.
Symptoms of a stroke come on suddenly. Watch for:
- Numbness or weakness, especially on just one side of the body
- Confusion, difficulty speaking, or trouble understanding other people
- Vision problems in one or both eyes
- Dizziness, loss of balance and coordination, or trouble walking
- Severe headache
Yes You Can Die From Sleep Apnea Carrie Fisher Did
- Yes, you can die from sleep apnea. Carrie Fisher did.
News of the official cause of death of iconic Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher has swept the Internet, leaving open many unanswered questions. The headlines suggesting Fishers death at age 60 was caused by obstructive sleep apnea are giving many people reason to pause.
Can you actually die from sleep apnea?
Its unclear to the American Sleep Apnea Association whether Fisher had been diagnosed with and/or was actively treating her sleep apnea. We are attempting to learn more so that we may help educate others about diagnosis of and treatments for this very common medical condition.
While the ASAA is focused on public awareness, education, and advocacy for sleep apnea, we have taken on a new initiativeto help find a cure for sleep apneaso that the deaths of Carrie Fisher and others can be avoided in the future. However, this work does not happen without support Please donate now to the ASAA and join us in finding a cure for sleep apnea!
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About Sleep Apnea And Snoring
Snoring may be a good indication that you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be recognized by its symptoms:
- Waking up and gasping
- Feeling drowsy throughout the day
- Waking up with a headache
- Having a dry mouth and/or sore throat
- Sleeping with your mouth open
- Urinating frequently throughout the night
- High blood pressure and cardiac issues
Your snoring will also be loud and regular. Partners are often able to notify their significant other of what their snores sound like and whether there are moments in the night where they stop breathing. You may stop breathing anywhere from a few seconds to thirty seconds, up to a few hundred times a night. This will have a significant impact on the oxygen available in your blood to supplement the rest of your body.
There are a few factors that contribute to sleep apnea, such as:
Position in Which You Sleep. Certain sleeping positions, like sleeping on your back, can cause the muscles in your throat to relax and narrow your throat.
Age. As we get older, the muscles in our throat become laxer. The result is a narrower throat that can add to breathing difficulty.
Congestion. Whether in the sinuses or nasal passageways, mucus can block airways and make it difficult to breathe. Many people who have a cold or sinus infection will snore and have a difficult time sleeping.
Overweight or Obesity. Excess fat can be stored all around the body. When the fat is stored in the neck and throat areas, it can restrict breathing and cause snoring.
Death By Sleep Deprivation: Fact Or Fiction
Although everyone needs a different amount of sleep to feel refreshed, most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day. However, sleep deprivation is a widespread problem and around 35% of adult Americans sleep less than 7 hours per day, the American Thoracic Society reports.
According to a 2018 literature review published in the journal Healthcare, a lack of sleep demonstrably increases the risk of premature death. Researchers examined relevant data and found that people getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep each night had a ten times higher risk of premature death than those sleeping for 7 to 9 hours per night.
Additionally, there is considerable evidence suggesting that insufficient sleep can cause a host of diseases and mental health issues. In fact, inadequate sleep duration has been linked to 7 out of 15 leading causes of death in Americaâincluding cardiovascular disease, cancerous tumors, cerebrovascular disease, accidents, diabetes, septicemia, and high blood pressure.
But is there a linear link between sleep deprivation and death? âDeath from sleep deprivation is most likely to occur indirectly,â Holly Schiff, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Additionally, Abhinav Singh, MD, medical director at Indiana Sleep Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care that short sleep duration is linked with the following issues:
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How Do I Cure Sleep Apnea
The first step to curing sleep apnea is a change of lifestyle. This is to try and find the root of the problem. This will include quitting smoking, drinking, and losing weight. It is not recommended to take sleeping pills or to consume anything that works as a sedative, as this will further prevent the individual from breathing properly. The problem isnt with the lack of sleep, its with the lack of oxygen levels due to irregular breathing.
Other lifestyle changes include sleeping on your side to prevent choking and changing your mattress.
In severe cases, individuals may use devices like MAD. MAD is used for dental patients, which holds the jaw and tongue to provide more space in the throat. A CPAP is a pump connected to a mask that fits over the nose to feed the individual oxygen.
Surgeries are used as a last resort to prevent the risk of serious health problems. This includes bariatric surgery, tracheostomies, and tonsillectomies to name a few.
Avoid Alcohol And Sleeping Pills
If you have trouble sleeping, try a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea or juice instead of unwinding with a glass of wine. Alcohol and certain medications can make throat muscles relax more than normal. As a result, airways can get blocked. Alcohol and medications can also make it harder for your brain to “wake up” and register a lack of oxygen in the body. This can cause longer and more serious pauses in breathing. If you find it hard to fall asleep, try reading a book or taking a warm bath.
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Treatment For Sleep Apnea
All the health problems linked to the condition can sound scary, but there are lots of ways to treat it.
Your doctor may recommend a machine called CPAP, short for continuous positive airway pressure. The machine, with a mask attached by a hose, can help you breathe better at night and get the rest you need. It can take some getting used to, but people who use it when they sleep feel better and are healthier.
There are other treatments, too, such as mouth appliances, nerve stimulators to keep your airways open, and several types of surgery. Talk to your doctor about which option is most likely to help you feel better and avoid other health problems.
Areas Of Brain Damage Caused By Obstructive Sleep Apnea
One of the most common complaints by my patients with obstructive sleep apnea is memory loss. Judith is a 55 year old woman who used to have a sharp memory, but now is having trouble with names and losing her keys all the time. Things got much worse when she gained more weight, which worsened her snoring. She was eventually placed on CPAP for her moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and is now happy to report that while her memory is not back to normal, it is much improved.
At a recent Airway Dentistry conference I went to last month, the most memorable topic was given by Dr. Ronald Harper, Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Ive been following his work over many years, but his presentation only confirmed my suspicion that there can be significant brain damage with untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Based on various high-tech MRI technology, specific known areas of the brain can be damaged with repeated episodes of apneas and low oxygen levels. Note that the word damage can mean low functioning, or dead brain cells. Here are 5 particular areas of brain damage from untreated obstructive sleep apnea with their specific symptoms:
3. The cerebellum is the area of the brain that helps adjust blood pressure control and motor coordination, including breathing. Damage to this area prevents the ability to coordinate vascular and motor activity.
Getting Tested For Sleep Apnoea
If a GP thinks you might have sleep apnoea, they may refer you to a specialist sleep clinic for tests.
At the clinic, you may be given devices that check things like your breathing and heartbeat while you sleep.
You’ll be asked to wear these overnight so doctors can check for signs of sleep apnoea.
You can usually do this at home, but sometimes you may need to stay in the clinic overnight.
The test can show if you have sleep apnoea and how severe it is. This is based on how often your breathing stops while you sleep .
Your AHI score shows how severe your sleep apnoea is:
- AHI of 5 to 14 mild
- AHI of 15 to 30 moderate
- AHI over 30 severe
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
For moderate to severe sleep apnea, the most common treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure or automatic positive airway pressure device. These splint the person’s airway open during sleep by means of pressurized air. The person typically wears a plastic facial mask, which is connected by a flexible tube to a small bedside CPAP machine.
Although CPAP therapy is effective in reducing apneas and less expensive than other treatments, some people find it uncomfortable. Some complain of feeling trapped, having chest discomfort, and skin or nose irritation. Other side effects may include dry mouth, dry nose, nosebleeds, sore lips and gums.
Whether or not it decreases the risk of death or heart disease is controversial with some reviews finding benefit and others not. This variation across studies might be driven by low rates of complianceanalyses of those who use CPAP for at least four hours a night suggests a decrease in cardiovascular events.
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Maintain A Healthy Weight
Doctors commonly recommend people with sleep apnea to lose weight. Obesity, specifically in the upper body, can increase the risk of airway obstruction and narrow nasal passages. These obstructions can cause you to stop breathing suddenly or for lengths of time while sleeping.
Maintaining a healthy weight can keep your airways clear and reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Research shows that modest weight reduction in people with obesity can eliminate the need for upper airway surgery or long-term CPAP therapy.
In some cases, weight loss can eliminate sleep apnea. However, if you regain the weight, its possible for the condition to return.
Signs And Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Family members or bed partners often pick up on the signs of sleep apnea first. Many people with sleep apnea don’t know they’re snoring and gasping for breath at night. If you have any of the following signs, see your doctor:
- daytime sleepiness
- loud snoring followed by silent pauses
- gasping or choking during sleep
- morning headache
- poor concentration or memory loss
- lowered sex drive
Snoring by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. It is true that loud snoring is common in people with this disorder, but there’s a big difference between simple snoring and sleep apnea.
Untreated sleep apnea can cause serious health problems. If it’s not treated, sleep apnea can lead to:
- high blood pressure
- work-related injuries
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Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
The most obvious and common sign sleep apnea is loud snoring, however not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. People who have sleep apnea often experience extremely loud snoring which is followed by long periods of deafening silence when breathing stops.
Other signs and symptoms that may occur during the day or overnight include:
- Excessive sleepiness during the day, leading to difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Waking up in the middle of the night short of breath
- Breathing cessation throughout the night, which is usually observed by someone else
- Dry mouth and sore throat in the morning
- Chest pain upon waking up
- Morning headaches
- Mood instability including frequent bouts of depression, anxiety, or excessive irritability
- Insomnia, problems staying asleep, and/or restless sleep
Typically, adults and children will differ in symptoms. For example, the hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is excessive daytime sleepiness, to the point where the individual may fall asleep for short periods of time throughout regular daily activities.
Obstructive sleep apnea symptoms can be present for years without the person knowing they have the disorder. Many people will experience issues for only a short period of time, with symptoms disappearing after weight loss, surgery, or other lifestyle changes. Symptoms may also be the result of a respiratory infection, congestion, throat swelling, etc.