How Untreated Sleep Apnea Impacts Life Expectancy

How Untreated Sleep Apnea Impacts Life Expectancy

The CPAP Shop teamed up with Dr. Vidya Pai, an experienced sleep medicine specialist, to write this blog post. Our team of authors and medical experts frequently evaluates our blog posts so that readers can learn factual information and make knowledge-based decisions. Our blogs get constantly updated with the most accurate information to provide the most up-to-date facts and research.  

Key Takeaways

Sleep apnea is a widespread sleep condition and occurs when people repeatedly start and stop breathing frequently throughout the night while they are sleeping. Because it is an illness that occurs during sleep, many people do not even know they have it, and it could go undiagnosed their whole life. Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea is very harmful, and can certainly lead to shortened life expectancy.  

Table of Contents

  • How Dangerous Is Sleep Apnea?
  • Warning Signs Of Sleep Apnea  
  • Immediate Side Effects Of Sleep Apnea
  • Insights Related To Untreated Sleep Apnea and Life Expectancy
  • Insights Related To Treated Sleep Apnea and Life Expectancy  
  • What Happens If You Leave Sleep Apnea Untreated?
  • Remedies For Sleep Apnea  
  • Positive Airway Pressure Devices  
  • Oral Appliances  
  • Neuro Stimulation And Surgeries  
  • Changes In Lifestyle 

How Dangerous Is Sleep Apnea?

How Dangerous is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea could turn into a very serious illness if it is left untreated. Untreated sleep apnea could result in symptoms ranging from excessive daytime sleepiness to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes, and much more. Although there is no cure to sleep apnea, diagnosis and treatment are crucial to those who have this disorder.  

Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea

Warning Signs Of Sleep Apnea

There are many signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. Usually, most of these symptoms are observed by a user's bed partner as they would be the ones to detect and notice irregularities. Here are a few warning signs for those who may have sleep apnea that can be noticed by a bed partner: 

  • Loud snoring
  • Loud breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Gasping for air in the middle of the night  

There are also other symptoms that a person could detect themselves that occur during the day: 

  • Morning headaches
  • Sleepiness even after a full night's rest
  • Dry mouth and/or throat upon awakening
  • Depression, irritability, or mood swings 

Immediate Side Effects of Sleep Apnea

Immediate Side Effects Of Sleep Apnea

Once a person develops sleep apnea, there are immediate side effects that occur that could clue someone in that something may be wrong. These immediate side effects include low energy, fatigue, and even cloudy thinking. These factors result in someone who is sluggish, struggling to get normal tasks/activities accomplished, and not feeling like themselves.  

If you feel like you have any of these symptoms or side effects, it is highly recommended to get tested for sleep apnea as soon as possible. The CPAP Shop partners with Sleep Care Online to offer an innovative, online service that allows someone to take a sleep apnea test in the comfort of their own bed rather than at a laboratory or sleep clinic.

Insights Related to Untreated Sleep Apnea and Life Expectancy

Insights Related To Untreated Sleep Apnea and Life Expectancy

It is known that sleep apnea that is left undiagnosed and untreated could very much affect a person's life expectancy. Approximately 12-15 years of life could be taken from someone who does not treat their sleep apnea. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that having sleep apnea increases the risk of death by 17%. And, if left untreated, having severe sleep apnea could double that risk. 

Insights Related to Treated Sleep Apnea and Life Expectancy

Insights Related To Treated Sleep Apnea and Life Expectancy

Conversely, getting diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea could have many positive effects on a person's lifespan. Not only will treatment extend their life expectancy, but it will also make their days and nights better. Those who receive treatment for sleep apnea will have a better night's sleep, and also will feel less tired and sluggish during the day.  

Additionally, those who are diagnosed and treated with sleep apnea have a lower risk of heart issues, cancer, depression, and more.  

What Happens if You Leave Sleep Apnea Untreated?

What Happens If You Leave Sleep Apnea Untreated?

As mentioned, leaving sleep untreated is not recommended as it could increase a person's risk of more serious health issues and could also lead to shortened life expectancy. Life expectancy will be shortened by several years for those who leave this serious sleep condition untreated. Additionally, the symptoms of sleep apnea will also get worse, causing a person's sleep habits to also decline, resulting in a negative effect on their every day hobbies, activities, and routines. Those who live active lifestyles will certainly feel the outcome of untreated sleep apnea as the symptoms will slow them down.  

Remedies for Sleep Apnea

Remedies For Sleep Apnea

Thankfully, there are a few ways to help treat sleep apnea. There are several remedies a doctor could prescribe for assistance. 

Positive Airway Pressure Devices  

Positive Airway Pressure Devices

Positive airway pressure devices, also known as PAP machines are the most common way of treating sleep apnea. They are very effective, and modern technology has allowed these devices to be lightweight, portable, and quiet to not interrupt a person while they are sleeping. PAP machines deliver pressurized air through a CPAP mask to help keep a person's airway open for better breathing throughout the night. The use of these machines results in fewer apnea episodes, and also improves daily moods, concentration, and more.  

Using PAP machines to treat sleep apnea also prevents strokes, diabetes, daytime sleepiness, and more.  

Oral Appliances

Oral Appliances

Oral appliances can also be used to help treat sleep apnea. This type of remedy is similar to a mouthpiece, and it is worn through the night to percent the airway from closing. It keeps the tongue and lower jaw in place, preventing them from shifting. Oral appliances are best for those who have problems with PAP machines. Over time, oral appliances can also reposition the jaw and tongue to keep the airway open while a person sleeps naturally. Learn more about oral appliances for sleep apnea in this blog post

Neuro Stimulation And Surgeries  

Neurostimulation and surgery can be used to treat sleep apnea as well. These procedures can be done to improve a person's breathing pattern while they're sleeping. One particular surgery, known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UP3, removes excess tissue around the throat which allows more air to get through the throat.

Neuro Stimulation And Surgeries

Changes in Lifestyle

Changes In Lifestyle

Just like the other remedies to sleep apnea, changes in lifestyle can help improve sleep apnea symptoms. Although sleep apnea will never go away, a change of habits could help alleviate the severity of sleep apnea symptoms. Here are some key lifestyle changes a person could make to improve their sleep apnea: 

  • Losing weight
  • Exercising more
  • Quitting smoking
  • Quitting drinking alcohol
  • Eating a nutritional diet 

Dr. Vidya Pai, MD

Dr. Pai is an experienced sleep medicine doctor who completed a fellowship in Sleep Medicine at Harvard University and residency at Michigan State University. She has a passion for improving her patient's lives.