When is Sleep Apnea Considered Severe?

When is Sleep Apnea Considered Severe?

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Obstructive sleep apnea affects approximately 20% of adults in the United States, of whom about 90% are undiagnosed. Often, the individual doesn’t connect their snoring and their lack of energy during the day — no matter how many hours of sleep they get. However, undiagnosed (and untreated) sleep apnea can have severe consequences on your overall health.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, you must take a home sleep test and have your results analyzed by a sleep physician who can set you up with a treatment plan. With the proper treatment in place, you will not only improve your quality of sleep but reduce the risk of several potentially fatal health conditions.

Follow along as ApneaMed outlines the health conditions brought on by untreated obstructive sleep apnea.


High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it can lead to heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks when left untreated. Hypertension causes an individual’s blood pressure to be too high due to the force of their blood pushing against the walls of their blood vessels. When individuals have high blood pressure, their heart and blood vessels must constantly work harder and less efficiently. This excess force on their heart and vessels can damage the delicate tissues inside their arteries.

Frequently individuals with undiagnosed sleep apnea will also suffer from high blood pressure. When they sleep, their sleep apnea causes stress within the body, resulting in their hormones going into overdrive and boosting their blood pressure levels. If your home sleep apnea test reveals that you have sleep apnea, you must be mindful of your blood pressure levels to keep it in a normal range.

Heart Attack

As mentioned, untreated sleep apnea and hypertension can lead to potentially fatal health conditions, including heart attacks. Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea have a heightened risk of heart attacks because their blood pressure is constantly elevated. When this happens, their heart beats faster than usual. The combination of a faster beating heart rate and high blood pressure can be fatal and lead to a heart attack for anyone with untreated sleep apnea.

Depending on the severity of the untreated sleep apnea, the individual poses a risk for sudden death if left untreated. They may go into sudden cardiac arrest from having an abnormal heart rhythm.

Breathing Cessations

Obstructive sleep apnea causes the individual to stop breathing at least ten or more times throughout the night — sometimes more than a hundred times! These breathing cessations occur when the soft tissues of the throat collapse, causing a blockage in the airway. 

Frequent lapses in breathing are extremely dangerous for individuals with untreated sleep apnea because they can lead to low blood-oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream. Because of this blockage, the individual may snore, choke, or gasp for air throughout the night in an attempt to reopen their airway. With the proper treatment plan in place, the individual will be able to keep their oxygen levels within a safe and normal range more effectively.

Testing and Treatment for Sleep Apnea

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or any risk for heart disease, you may also suffer from sleep apnea.  If you have any signs or symptoms of sleep disturbance and any of the risk factors mentioned above, you must initiate a sleep test. 

With ApneaMed’s home sleep test, a board-certified sleep physician will analyze your results and determine the proper form of treatment. If you’re interested in a self-administered sleep apnea test from ApneaMed, contact our team to learn more.

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