Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?

Summary: Sleep apnea can kill you but it may not if you understand its seriousness and how it can be treated. However, sleep apnea causes tiredness and lack of sleep which makes other problems worse.

Yes, sleep apnea can kill those who suffer from it, but it doesn’t always. With attention and treatment, it is much less likely to be life threatening, but it does require care and attention to health and situation.

Many celebrities surprising and unexpected deaths are at least partially attributed to sleep apnea. Carrie Fisher, Star Wars’ Princess Leia, died in her sleep, just after Christmas in 2016. Sleep apnea was called a contributing cause of her death, although not the only one as she had a multitude of health issues as well.

‘Apnea’ means without breath, so sleep apnea means to sleep without breathing. Those with sleep apnea wake up to jumpstart their breathing again after having stopped for a few seconds to 10 or more seconds. The sleeper jolts awake, usually snorting to begin breathing, and then falls back asleep again until the next time they need to breathe. Imagine, though, what might happen if the sleeper has taken sleeping pills or sedatives because of tiredness or stress and cannot wake up when they are excessively tired.

According to People Magazine, this is the situation expected to have been the cause of Fisher’s death. Sleep apnea contributed to her death, but it wasn’t the only cause. Other factors are some of those which affect many with sleep apnea – smoking, heart disease, past drug use, and a buildup of fatty tissues, which cause the airways to close in sleep. Fisher had been very open about how drug abuse, depression, smoking, poor diet and heart disease had been problems for her in her life, but it is possible she may have not been aware of the sleep apnea. Many people have it without knowing that they do.

Those with sleep apnea may be very tired throughout the day and not know why, since it seems as though they slept all night. Without a sleep partner who can attest to the snoring, or the breathing starts, it may seem to the sufferer that they were asleep all night. Because of the amount of times waking, sometimes hundreds of times in the night, the fatigue and other factors cycle to make each other worse. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression all are worse without a good night’s sleep, and having such diseases make sleeping worse.

There are ways of dealing with sleep apnea if you know that you have it, and be sure to focus on treating the snoring. CPAP therapy, a sleep mask, and oxygen can keep the airways open naturally at night so you don’t wake to breathe and can get a good night’s sleep. You will be amazed at how much better you feel, and then can begin to tackle any other issues in your health. Unexplained tiredness during the daytime, headaches, and losing your spouse to the couch every night, might be an indication that is time to consult a sleep specialist and follow their advice.

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