Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Two Main Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea to the Heart

What is sleep apnea? This is a serious sleep disorder that is initiated when breathing patterns are interfered with during sleep. Individuals suffering from sleep apnea stop breathing at given intervals during their sleep. In a single night, those with acute sleep apnea may experience shortage of breath up to hundreds of times!

2000px-Obstruction_ventilation_apnée_sommeil_smallAccording to online health dictionaries, there are two types of sleep apnea basically summarized as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea. The difference between the two is that OSA is a more common form of sleep apnea caused when the airways is blocked by a collapse of the soft tissue present at the back of the throat.

On the other hand, Central sleep apnea is rare because in its case, the airway is not blocked. Instead, the brain fails to send signals to the breath muscles for them to breath. Such failures by the brain result from instabilities in the respiratory control center whose main function is breath management.

Untreated sleep apneas pose many dangers to the human body especially the heart. It creates a scenario where the body and the brain are not able to get enough oxygen supply. Here are the two main dangers of untreated sleep apnea to the heart:

Heart Attack

One of the major consequences of untreated obstructive sleep apnea to the heart is seen in the increased levels of chances of experiencing a heart attack. Research studies have in the present times indicated that those who have sleep apnea have a 30% higher risk of suffering from a heart attack than those who don’t because of reduced levels of oxygen supply to the body’s vital organs. Stress associated with frequent waking up during sleep periods is also a risk factor. When sleep apnea is not treated in time, it is highly likely that an individual can easily die in the middle of the night from heart related complications.


Stroke is also associated with untreated sleep apnea. Most often, sleep apnea creates problems with the rhythmic beating of the heart leading to atrial fibrillation and stroke. Because of continuous disruption of oxygen flow by sleep apnea, it becomes difficult for the brain to regulate blood flow in arteries of the heart and brain thus leading to stroke.

There are other health problems associated with sleep apnea such as high blood pressure, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and adult asthma. Claims on asthma are yet to be proven through research even though it is believed that those who have sleep apnea will more likely suffer from asthma.