What are the effects of sleep apnea?

can you die from 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

effects sleep apnea

Effects of untreated sleep apnea

risk of accidents
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. 

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. It also reduces the number of days people need to take off from work.7

How to reduce your cardiovascular risks8
Australia's National Heart foundation recommends 7 steps to effectively reduce cardiovascular risks:
quit smoking
Quit smoking
Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke.
eat healthy food
Eat healthy food
Eat healthy food increasing fruit and vegetables, reducing saturated fat and limiting salt.
reduce alcohol
Reduce alcohol
Reduce alcohol to no more than 2 standard drinks a day.
get active
Get active
Get active, aiming for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.
achieve healthy weight
Achieve a healthy weight
Achieve a healthy weight by reducing kilojoule intake and increasing physical activity.
reduce bad cholesterol
Reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol
Reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol if it’s raised. Your doctor can test and advise you on this.
control blood pressure
Control your blood pressure
Get a blood pressure monitor and aim for a blood pressure of less than 130/80mmHg. Your doctor can advise you about ways to control your blood pressure.



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.