Skip to content

    Sleep Apnea Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Sleep Apnea May Be Deadly

    Risk of Premature Death 3 Times Higher in People With Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Aug. 1, 2008 -- Suffering from sleep apnea may do more than just spoil a good night's sleep. A new study shows that people with severe sleep apnea may be up to three times more likely to die prematurely, and that risk increases if the sleep disorder is left untreated.

    Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that causes frequent pauses in breathing during sleep and is often accompanied by snoring. About 6% of adults in the U.S. suffer from moderate to severe forms of the condition, and 17% have less severe forms.

    In the study, researchers followed more than 1,500 adults for 18 years who had been screened for sleep apnea at the start of the study. The results showed that about 19% of those with severe sleep apnea died during the follow-up period compared with only 4% of those without sleep apnea.

    Researchers found the risk of premature death increased as the severity of sleep apnea increased, but findings suggested protection from risk of death with proper treatment of sleep apnea, such as the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to keep airways open during sleep and prevent pauses in breathing.

    When those who used CPAP regularly to treat their sleep apnea were excluded from the analysis, the risk of death was 3.8 times greater for those with for untreated sleep apnea.

    "I was surprised by how much the risks increased when we excluded people who reported treatment with CPAP," researcher Terry Young, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says in a news release. "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."

    Sleep Apnea Death Risk

    In the study, published in Sleep, researchers followed a random sample of 1,522 men and women between the ages of 30 and 60 who participated in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study.

    The participants spent one night at a sleep laboratory under observation and were screened for sleep apnea. Those diagnosed with sleep apnea were divided into groups according to the severity of their condition, as defined by the average number of breathing pauses and sleep disruptions during sleep.

    Today on WebMD

    man wearing cpap
    Know your myths from your facts.
    man sleeping
    What do they say about you?
     
    man suffering from sleep apnea
    You may need a sleep study.
    exhausted and tired
    Which type do you have?
     
    Pet scan depression
    VIDEO
    Nighttime Heartburn
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Fight Fatigue Sleepiness On The Road
    SLIDESHOW
    Sleep Apnea Appliance
    VIDEO
     
    Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
    SLIDESHOW
    Sleep Apnea Clues
    FEATURE
     
    Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
    SLIDESHOW
    Breus Sleep Apnea
    VIDEO