Sleep Apnea Complications
Reference Sleep apnea Opens New Window can cause you to stop breathing during sleep. When you stop breathing, the oxygen levels in your blood go down and carbon dioxide levels go up. This makes your heart and blood vessels work harder and can affect your heart rate and nervous system. This can lead to complications over time, such as:
- Low blood oxygen levels during sleep. These low levels as well as other factors such as fragmented sleep may lead to high blood pressure in the lungs (Reference pulmonary hypertension Opens New Window) and in the rest of the body (Reference hypertension Opens New Window).Reference 1 Nearly 50% of people who have sleep apnea have high blood pressure.Reference 2
- Reference Heart failure Opens New Window. Changes in the body caused by sleep apnea increase the risk of heart failure.Reference 3
- Reference Irregular heart rhythms Opens New Window, such as atrial fibrillation.Reference 4
- Reference Coronary artery disease Opens New Window (CAD).
- A greater-than-normal number of red blood cells, which may cause the blood to thicken.
- Death caused by blood vessel disease that affects the brain or heart (Reference stroke Opens New Window or Reference heart attack Opens New Window).Reference 4
- Failure to resume breathing (respiratory failure) and sudden death, especially in the early morning (very rare).
Sleep apnea can cause some of these conditions to progress more quickly and be more difficult to treat. Treating sleep apnea may help make some of these conditions less severe.
People with sleep apnea also may be more likely to get in a car accident due to sleepiness while driving.Reference 5
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference January 20, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Mark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine