Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg on February 21, 2012
Michael J. Breus, PhD, American Board of Sleep Medicine, Clinical Psychology, Clinical Sleep Disorders, Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine, Atlanta.
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Michael Breus, PhD: Sleep apnea is dangerous for multiple reasons. The biggest one seems to be that it has massive cardiovascular effects on the body. So, as you fall asleep and you stop breathing, what your body does is it slows your heart rate down because it wants to conserve the oxygen that's in your system. And so then, it reaches this point of no return where it says I need to wake up to get some air and then your heart rate speeds up to wake you up, so you have a heart rate that slows down and speeds up, slows down and speeds up and it puts a tremendous load on the heart. So what ends up happening is you have a greater likelihood for a heart attack, greater likelihood for stroke, and cardiovascular disease so it becomes a pretty big issue If you have untreated sleep apnea.