Can Sleep Apnea Be Fatal?

Written and reviewed by
Dr.Harmeet Singh Pasricha 90% (71ratings)
DNB (ENT), MBBS, MNAMS - Otorhinolaryngology
ENT Specialist, Gurgaon  •  24years experience
Can Sleep Apnea Be Fatal?

Sleep Apnea refers to sleep disorder which is characterized by irregular pauses or interruption in breathing during sleep. Every pause usually lasts for a few minutes or seconds and occurs several times at night. This may indicate that your brain as well as rest of your body is not getting sufficient supply of oxygen. Sleep apnea is of two types - Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea- This occurs when the air passage gets blocked, generally when the throat muscles periodically relax and obstruct your air passage during sleep. It is the most common type of sleep apnea and is characterized by snoring.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea- In this case, the airway does not get blocked, but the brain stops passing signals to the muscles that control your breathing.

Mostly people who are diagnosed with a number of underlying medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic nasal congestion etc. are prone to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Although Central Sleep Apnea is a less common type of sleep disorder, and does not lead to serious complications, various research studies show that Obstructive Sleep Apnea can pose adverse consequences if not treated at the right time.

One such fatal consequence is cardiovascular problems. Sudden drops in the levels of oxygen in blood that happens during Obstructive Sleep Apnea results can lead to increased blood pressure and damage of the cardiovascular system, which in turn increases the chance of a heart attack. Since men are more prone to heart ailments than women, men with sleep apnea are at a greater risk of heart ailments like stroke or heart failure, coronary artery disease and others.

Since Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs due to interruption in the breathing procedure, it can lead to abnormal irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmia. Arrhythmia can decrease the level of oxygen in blood and if there’s an underlying heart condition, these repetitive encounters of low blood oxygen can even lead to a sudden cardiac arrest.

Most research studies have established a positive correlation between sleep apnea and heart ailment. According to researchers, the risk of untimely death increases as the acuteness of sleep apnea increases. However, there are ways of seeking treatment for this particular sleep disorder. You should consult a doctor immediately and get yourself proper medical assistance to prevent the condition from aggravating.

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