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Can Sleep Apnea Be Fatal?

added on: February 6, 2020

man holding his chin pondering if sleep apnea can be fatal

There are many ways that untreated sleep apnea can damage your health, but can it be fatal? Read on for some answers.

Sleep Apnea Is Common

According to the National Academy of Sciences, chronic sleep disorders – with sleep apnea being the most common – affect between 50 and 70 million Americans. The American Sleep Apnea Association lists numerous successful celebrity actors, comedians, singers, writers, politicians and athletes with the disorder. Even retired basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal suffers from sleep apnea, so it’s clear that when it’s treated, it isn’t debilitating. The key is proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent health problems related to the disorder.

Untreated Sleep Apnea Is Harmful

Sleep Apnea is often an undiagnosed problem underlying other more obvious struggles. It can be harmful in many ways. For one thing, being tired all the time increases the risk of accident or injury caused by poor judgment. The number of people with untreated sleep apnea who have died after falling asleep at the wheel can’t be quantified, but it’s something to consider. The constant waking caused by obstructed air flow disrupts circadian rhythms which creates imbalances in other body and brain chemistries. Cardiac and respiratory function is compromised, which leads to greater risk of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Poor sleep also causes increased irritability and depression which can lead to problems at home, school and work.

Can Sleep Apnea Be Fatal?

The disorder itself doesn’t kill people but the harmful results of the side effects can be fatal. The American Sleep Apnea Association cites research that says individuals with untreated sleep apnea are more than three times as likely to die of premature death. Other statistics on their webpage claim that at least 38,000 people die each year from heart disease which is aggravated by sleep apnea. The cause of death listed for actress Carrie Fisher was “sleep apnea with other conditions.” Other well-known people have died from the side effects of sleep apnea including actor-comedian John Candy, NFL player Reggie White and former President William H. Taft.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

If you think you might have sleep apnea, talk to us at Caring Smiles in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can start by looking over the symptoms we list on our website. Dr. Ken Allen is experienced in sleep apnea disorders and can help sufferers find relief with a custom made sleep appliance. Call us today to schedule a consultation.


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