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Can I Die From Sleep Apnea?

April 29, 2022

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It’s a terrible thing to think you could be at risk for dying in your sleep due to an illness that often goes undiagnosed. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects approximately 20% of US adults, of whom about 90% are undiagnosed.” (NIH.gov) It is possible that those people with poor sleep that are undiagnosed are not aware of the risks of sleep apnea. 

So, this leads back to the question, Can you die from sleep apnea? 

The answer is yes. 

Sleep apnea, as we know, is caused by a blockage of the airway restricting and often stopping your breathing throughout sleep. We know this causes irritability and poor decision making, but it also has more severe consequences that happen internally. 

Sleep apnea stops the flow of oxygen to your vital organs, including your heart and your brain. The lack of oxygen causes immediate tissue ischemia, which is tissue death. This can directly lead to a heart attack or a stroke. (Webmd.com) So, the argument could be made that the sleep apnea did not cause death, but the death is a direct result of tissue death caused by sleep apnea. 

People suffering from sleep apnea: 

  • are more likely to have a heart attack (Sleep Health Heart Study results, 2001, American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine)
  • have a 2 to 3 times higher risk for having a stroke (Sleep Health Heart Study results, 2010, American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine)
  • face more than 3 times the risk of premature death (18 year follow-up of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, 2008, Sleep)
  • In addition, people who’ve had sleep apnea for up to 5 years have a 30 percent increase in their risk for having a heart attack or dying, according to research conducted at Yale University. 

(This information came to us from SleepApnea.org)

Does CPAP change the odds of dying from sleep apnea? 

Yes! 

Finally, some good news!

The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study is an ongoing study started in 1988 and following participants that have diagnosed sleep apnea, those without sleep apnea, and those who are not diagnosed. 

According to principal investigator and lead author Terry Young, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

“I was surprised by how much the risks increased when we excluded people who reported treatment with CPAP,” Young said. “Our findings suggest – but cannot prove – that people diagnosed with sleep apnea should be treated, and if CPAP is the prescribed treatment, regular use may prevent premature death.” (https://aasm.org)


CPAP is the leading method of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, but many patients find it difficult to use the prescribed treatment. There are many options and we are here to help. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but you’re having a hard time using your CPAP, get in touch! It is our hope that we can help anybody find a solution to their sleep issues. Use the form below to reach our customer support team.

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