Education about the severity of sleep apnea

by Lloyd
(Toronto, Canada)

A friend has just been diagnosed with sleep apnea and he was told it is severe.

During his overnight test his breathing interruptions occurred about once a minute but only lasted 2 or 3 seconds.

I do not know what his respiration rate is but a short pause between breaths of that magnitude does not seem to this layman to be a big deal.

He definitely has been a snorer for a long time.

He is now 70 years old, slightly overweight, and he had a heart bypass about 15 years ago so he is likely at more risk than a physically fit younger person. He does exercise on a treadmill regularly. He will be using a CPAP.

He and his wife travel extensively so lugging it around will be a nuisance. Please educate this layman about the severity issue in this case.

Thanks very much!


Severe sleep apnea is already a serious problem for your friend's health. It's not so easy to be compliant with a CPAP machine. And is very important to check - after one year of treatment - if his sleep apnea has improved.

If your friend has problems with his treatment, he will stop breathing in sleep and affect permanently his quality of life.

What happens when you stop breathing during sleep?

I'll start with this video:

If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during sleep, and the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood is upset. This imbalance stimulates the brain to restart the breathing process.

The brain signals you to wake up so that the muscles of the tongue and throat can increase the size of the airway. Then, carbon dioxide can escape, and oxygen can enter the airway. These waking episodes are necessary to restart breathing (and to save your life), but you become sleep-deprived.

Sleep apnea has serious health consequences and can even be life-threatening. The main effects of sleep apnea are:

  • sleep deprivation, and

  • oxygen deprivation.
Don't miss the article: Stop breathing without sleeping!

Sleep deprivation

Both the person with sleep apnea and the bed partner suffer from sleep deprivation. A bed partner may lose an hour or more of sleep each night from sleeping next to a person with sleep apnea.

Some trickle-down effects of sleep deprivation are:

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • A compromised immune system and slower healing

  • Poor mental and emotional health

  • Lack of smooth functioning of the body

  • Decreased productivity

  • A negative mood, irritability

  • Low energy

  • Unclear thinking, lack of concentration

  • Slower reaction time

Oxygen deprivation

    When you stop breathing, your brain does not get enough oxygen. Drastic problems can result from the oxygen deprivation of sleep apnea:

  • Insomnia, restless sleep

  • Heart disease, heart failure, or heart abnormalities such as arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)

  • Stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), and other cardiovascular system problems

  • Type II diabetes

  • Memory problems, learning difficulties, and lack of attention

  • Rapid weight gain and obesity

  • Impotence, sexual dysfunction, or reduced libido

  • Morning headaches

  • Depression

  • increase in involvement in auto accidents

  • Premature death, such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Other consequences of sleep apnea

  • Frequent bathroom visits to urinate during the night

  • Heartburn

  • Excessive sweating during sleep

  • Dry mouth in the morning

  • Loud snoring

  • In children, a concave chest during sleep
Don't miss: All You Need to Know About Severe Sleep Apnea!

I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

Comments for Education about the severity of sleep apnea

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Jul 12, 2015
Urination during sleep apnea
by: Ed

I've been in severe sleep apnea treatment for over 10 years .

One of the most unpleasant thing that happens is your bladder let's go during a sleep apnea event and you Pee in the bed, and wearing depends doesn't help because the volume overwhelms what you're wearing. I've replaced my mattress twice.

I just upgraded to a new machine that gives me and my doctor a daily readout of events per hour. Thanks to this page I now know that surgery is an option. I will definitely look into it.

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