Can You Die From Sleep Apnea? Here’s What You Need to Know

a woman having a bad sleep due to sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition closely linked to several life-threatening health issues, including chronic illnesses like high blood pressure. Frequent breathing interruptions can cause severe respiratory complications, even leading to sudden cardiac death. 

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 38,000 people in the United States die annually from heart disease, in which sleep apnea was determined to be a contributing factor. 

This brings us to the question—can you die from sleep apnea? This article will delve into what you need to know about the severity of sleep apnea and why seeking professional treatment is vital to ensuring you live a long and healthy life. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing intermittently stops and starts throughout the night. It can be caused by a blockage of airflow or a malfunction in your breathing reflex. This condition falls into three categories:

  • Central Sleep Apnea: The brain doesn’t signal to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Soft tissues in the neck or throat block the airway. This is the most common form of sleep apnea.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea: This is a blend of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.

An individual with sleep apnea may experience breathing interruptions as many as 400 times per night. This deprives the body of the necessary oxygen it needs to operate optimally. Moreover, the frequent stops and starts in your breathing pattern can also profoundly impact your personal and professional life.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

All types of sleep apnea manifest similar symptoms. You may experience:

1. Loud snoring

2. Pauses in breathing

3. Snorting or gasping for breath

4. Dry mouth

5. Sore throat or coughing

6. Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep

7. A necessity to sleep with your head raised

8. Morning headaches

9. Daytime fatigue and excessive sleepiness

10. Irritability and depression

11. Mood changes

12. Memory problems

Identifying these symptoms early can play a crucial role in managing sleep apnea effectively, thereby reducing the risk of serious health complications.

Can You Die in Your Sleep From Sleep Apnea?

In the case of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), it is uncommon but not unheard of for untreated OSA to lead to death during sleep. Observational research suggests that OSA can heighten the risk of sudden death. 

This risk is generally higher in elderly people, those with severe health conditions, and individuals with severe OSA. Untreated OSA can disrupt the cardiovascular and nervous systems’ standard functioning, triggering heart rhythm abnormalities and other complications that could lead to sudden cardiac death.

In contrast, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), much less prevalent than OSA, is linked with an impaired ability of the brain and respiratory muscles to regulate breathing effectively. CSA is often associated with underlying health conditions such as heart failure, which may impact a person’s life expectancy. 

There needs to be more studies about CSA’s effect on mortality risk due to its relative rarity. 

In some cases, treating the root cause of CSA can alleviate or even resolve sleep-related breathing problems, thereby enhancing sleep quality and mitigating other CSA symptoms and complications.

When to See a Doctor

Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea is only sometimes straightforward, as you may be oblivious to symptoms like snoring, snorting, or breath cessation during sleep. 

Your partner or family member may instead notice these. It’s crucial to consult a doctor if you suspect you might suffer from sleep apnea. 

Pay attention to telltale signs such as waking up tired, experiencing morning headaches, or dealing with depression. 

Be vigilant about symptoms like daytime fatigue, drowsiness, or unintended dozing off, for instance, while watching TV. Even mild sleep apnea can disrupt your sleep and lead to these symptoms, making it crucial to seek professional help promptly.


Sleep apnea is more than just a case of snoring and interrupted sleep. For many, many individuals—it involves instances where breathing ceases, which can result in immediate and long-term health complications. Yes, you can die from sleep apnea. It is a serious condition. 
Addressing sleep apnea is paramount. Symptoms won’t just vanish on their own. Remember, effective treatments are available. So, pay attention to the warning signs and contact us today at Sleep and CPAP Center for effective, clinically researched treatment options.