What Are the Dangers of Sleep Apnea?

  • Research shows that untreated sleep apnea can:
  • Cause excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Cause high blood pressure
  • More than double the risk of stroke in men1
  • Significantly increase risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiac events2
  • Cause greater likelihood of sudden death during sleep3
  • Increase risk of diabetes4
  • Increase risk of death from any cause5

Other adverse health effects of sleep apnea include:
Sleep apnea and obesity often occur together. Obesity contributes to sleep apnea and sleep apnea increases the risk for weight gain.

Sleep apnea can be an underlying cause of chronic headaches, especially those occurring in the morning.

1Sleep Heart Health Study, Redline, Susan, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, 2010.
2Marin JM, Carrizo SJ, Vicente E, Agusti AG, Long Term cardiovascular outcomes in men with obstructive sleep apnoea-hypopnoea with or without treatment with continuous positive airway pressure: an observational study. Lancet 2005;365:1046-1053.
3Gami AS, Howard DE, Olson EJ, Somers VK. Day-night pattern of sudden death in obstructive sleep apnea. N Engl J Med, 2005; 352:1206-1214.
4Reichmuth KJ, Austin D, Skatrud JB, Young T. Association of sleep apnea and type II diabetes: a population based study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2005;172:1590-1595.
5Punjabi N, Caffo B, Goodwin J, Sleep-disordered breathing and mortality: A prospective cohort study, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, open access journal, PLoS Medicine, August 18, 2009.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliance therapy has been shown to be effective for treating mild, moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea.  For patients diagnosed with mild and moderate obstructive sleep apnea, the oral appliance and the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine are considered by many practitioners to be equivalent alternatives.  According to the 2015 Guidelines for Oral Appliance Therapy developed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, (AASM) and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, (AADSM) patients diagnosed with severe sleep apnea should try CPAP treatment first.  If they are not able to tolerate CPAP, then the dental oral appliance becomes indicated. 

Positive Airway Pressure Therapy

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy was the first treatment developed for sleep apnea.  CPAP users wear a nasal interface or mask at night during sleep, and the machine delivers air pressure which acts like a splint to keep the airway open.  While effective, many CPAP users discontinue treatment for a variety of reasons, most commonly, mask discomfort.