Sleep Apnea: Shorter Sleep, Higher Risk of Death

A new study finds that patients with sleep apnea who have short interruptions in breathing are at a significantly higher risk for death than those with longer interruptions.1

“This result seems counter-intuitive because you might expect longer periods of not breathing to be more severe,” said Matthew P. Butler, PhD, assistant professor in the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Studies at Oregon Health & Science University, and author of the study, in a press release.2

Obstructive ventilation in sleep apnea

Is the AHI a Good Indicator?

Sleep apnea is a serious condition where a person’s airway is collapsed during sleep. As a result, the individual to periodically stop breathing. This condition is linked to a number of comorbidities, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and increased risk of death. Sleep specialists use the apnea-hypopnea index, or the number of times a patient stops breathing per hour of sleep, to determine the severity of sleep apnea.

The new study challenges this method by suggesting that in addition to how many breathing interruptions occur, it is also important to determine how long each one lasts.

The Research

Researchers analyzed the records of 5712 adults with an average age of 63. These patients all participated in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Sleep Heart Healthy Study. There were an equal number of men and women enrolled in the 11-year study.

In summary, the study found:1

  • Patients with the shortest apneas were 31% more likely to die during the decade-long follow-up.
  • Within the group classified as having moderate sleep apnea, patients with the shortest duration of breathing events had a 59% increased risk of dying.

How Does This Impact You?

The most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. However, some patients find the machine and the mask combo uncomfortable and choose not to use it if their sleep apnea is not severe. Mild or moderate sleep apnea patients are at a minimum, equal to or at greater risk of death as severe sufferers. CPAP remains the most effective and least invasive therapy available. Therefore, use it consistently in even the most moderate of cases.

The CPAP Shop has a team of experts ready to answer all your questions regarding CPAP therapy and products. Give us a call at 866-414-9700.

1. Butler MP, Emch JT, Rueschman M, et al. Apnea-hypopnea event duration predicts mortality in men and women in the Sleep Heart Healthy Study. Amer J Resp Crit Care Med. 2018 Oct 19.
2. Length of each breathing disruption in sleep apnea may predict mortality risk better than number of breathing disruptions [press release]. American Thoracic Society. 2018 Oct 16.

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.

Chris Vasta


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…

4 Comments Leave new

  • George McKenna

    I am looking for a reasonable price on the strap that attaches to the halo gear

    • Chris Vasta

      The headgear for a mask is typically masks specific. If you would like assistance finding the headgear for your current mask please reach out to our customer service team at 1-(866)-414-9700.

  • Donald A. Koch

    I have a mask that covers both my nose and mouth. I have started experiencing pain to my face and upper jaw (much like a severe tooth ache) now after wearing the mask through the night. Can you recommend a mask I might switch to avoid this issue.

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Donald, how long have you been wearing your current mask for? The head-strap and cushion both require periodic replacement every 3 – 5 moths. If you’ve had the mask for awhile, you may just need to replace some parts on it.

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