What are the effects of sleep apnea?

People often ask "Can you die from sleep apnea?"

The answer is Yes - but not directly.1 When you have sleep apnea, your breathing stops while you sleep. This is called an 'apnea'. Your brain senses a reduced oxygen level in your blood so it wakes you up so you start to breathe again. Every time you have an apnea, your blood pressure spikes and your heart rate increases until eventually you take a breath. This can happen many times a night without you even knowing. As you can imagine, this is not great for your health.2

Due to the links with serious medical conditions, severe sleep apnea may be associated with a shortened lifespan.3

What are the effects of sleep apnea?

Whether it's mild, moderate or severe, sleep apnea has disruptive effects on your body, disturbing your sleep-wake cycle as well as your blood and brain chemistry. Sleep apnea can affect your mood, lead to weight gain, daytime sleepiness, headaches, and memory problems.4

What are the effects of sleep ap

Effects of untreated sleep apnea

Risk of Accidents

Evidence suggests that people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a motor vehicle accident compared to other drivers. 5

 The study also found that by treating sleep apnea with CPAP therapy (for at least 4 hours per night) significantly reduced this risk.5


If you snore and experience mood problems and/or daytime sleepiness, these could be the effects of untreated sleep apnea.6

21.5% of people with sleep apnea experience mood problems although women with sleep apnea are more likely to report mood disturbances than men.6


Daytime Sleepiness
Daytime sleepiness

People with sleep apnea are often very sleepy during the daytime. This isn't surprising when you consider how their sleep is being constantly interrupted.

Daytime sleepiness puts you at risk of accidents. People with sleep apnea are 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a car accident.5

Sleep apnea treatment improves mood and sleepiness

The good news is that effective sleep apnea treatment does improve mood in many people and it improves daytime sleepiness.7



Source:  Ge X, Han F, Huang Y, et al.. Is Obstructive sleep apnea associated with cardiovascular and all-cause mortality? PLoS ONE 2013; 8: e69432.


Source: Young T et al. Sleep 2008;31(8):1071–8.


Source: Engleman HM, Douglas NJ. Thorax. 2004 Jul; 59(7):618-22.


Source: Aker J et al. Sleep Breath. 2017 May;21(2):311-318.


Source:https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Reducing-risk-in-heart-disease.pdf accessed 25 June 2019.