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8 Long Term Effects Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common, chronic, sleep-related breathing disorder. It is characterized by loud snoring, which, in most cases is very loud enough to disturb those around. This can have harmful effects on your health. This article deals with the long term effects of sleep apnea. 

Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million Americans and is seen more commonly in men than in women.1 Some of the risk factors for sleep apnea include being overweight, over 40 and male, but can affect anyone. According to John Hopkins medicine, sleep apnea occurs in about 3% of people with normal weight but affects more than 20 percent of obese people.2 Also, while the risk of sleep apnea in women increases greatly after their menopause.

It can be caused due to periodic narrowing of airways leading to obstruction in breathing, while there are other types as well. Some of the commonest symptoms of sleep apnea include non-refreshing sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, morning headache, irritability and memory loss.3 If the symptoms are not noticed and the condition is not diagnosed, it can progress causing more problems. Timely treatment is essential is to prevent long term effects that can give rise to other health problems.

8 Long Term Effects Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be of three types, obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and mixed type, which includes both.1

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)–The soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses, while the person is sleeping. This obstructs the airways and causes difficulty in breathing.
  • Central Sleep Apnea–In this, the brain fails to send signals to the muscles to breathe when the person sleeps, which can disturb the sleep and can cause difficulty in breathing.
  • Mixed Type– This type is a combination of both and you may experience both the types.

Many cases with sleep apnea remain undiagnosed and untreated. This increases the risk of possible complications and long term health consequences, in addition to other risks. Apart from the common symptoms of sleep apnea are clear, untreated sleep apnea can also lead to reduced productivity at the workplace, increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents, resulting in injuries and fatality.3

Recommended therapies for sleep apnea can relieve the symptoms and reduced the consequences as well. According to some studies, the long term effects of sleep apnea include health problems like cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, cognitive impairment, and depression.3 Hence, it is important to diagnose sleep apnea and get it treated in time.

Let us look at the long term effects of sleep apnea in detail:

  1. Fatigue – Inadequate sleep at night due to repeated interruptions can make you feel dull and drowsy in the morning. This can make you feel tired and lethargic with less energy to do your tasks. 
  2. Lack of Concentration – Sleep apnea affects your sleep and hence makes you feel tired during the daytime. Lack of adequate sleep, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue affect your concentration. It can create mental fog and make it difficult for you to think clearly.This can eventually affect your work and overall performance. This is one of the important long term effects of sleep apnea as it can affect your professional and personal life.
  3. Vehicular Accidents –Excessive sleepiness during the day can make you lose focus and increase your risk of falling asleep while driving. This increases the risk of vehicular accidents and can cause more problems.
  4. Emotional and Relation Issues–Sleep apnea can cause emotional disturbances, due to lack of relaxation and can also increase the risk of anxiety and depression.Your partner too may face problems as you wake up from your sleep at night, which can lead to relationship problems too. One of the long term effects of sleep apnea is disturbed emotional well being and relationship issues with your family and friends.
  5. High Blood Pressure –Long effects of sleep apnea also include health problems that are difficult to manage and have their complications. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure and can also make the management difficult in those who already have high blood pressure.
  6. Heart Disease –Sleep is essential for proper healing, effective blood circulation, and good health. However, sleep apnea causes disturbances in your sleep, leaving youdeprived of sleep and can affect body functions. One of the long term effects of sleep apnea is the increased risk of circulatory problems and blood clots. This puts you at a greater risk of heart diseases, heart attacks, and stroke. For people with existing heart problems, sleep apnea can make it difficult to treat the condition.
  7. Diabetes–Long term effects of sleep apnea can affect metabolism and lead to metabolic disorders. It can not only increase the risk of weight gain but also of type 2 diabetes. While sleep apnea is linked with diabetes, managing diabetes and its complications can be even more difficult.
  8. Surgery Complications – For some people having sleep apnea, surgical procedures may be difficult and the risk of complications can be high. Sleep apnea can increase the risk of airway obstruction and abnormal heart rhythm thus raising the chance of post-operative complications in some people.4

Other long term effects of sleep apnea may be the worsening of some existing medical conditions.

  • Disturbed sleep and irregular breathing patterns can also affect your breathing and respiratory function. It can also affect the oxygen supply to the blood and brain in some cases. This increases the risk of other health problems, making you more vulnerable to respiratory problems.
  • Lack of adequate sleep can affect digestion in some people and worsen acid reflux.
  • For some, headaches and migraines may worsen due to insufficient sleep at night. 
  • Sleep apnea makes you wake up many times during the night, which does not allow you to have good quality sleep. This, in turn, affects your body and mind healing, which can affect your immunity and put you at greater risk of illnesses.


The long term effects of sleep apnea are many and can affect your health in various ways. While most of them can be treated with medicine and appropriate lifestyle changes, it is worth controlling sleep apnea before it leads to other health problems. Hence, it is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea in time and get appropriate treatment. There may be many causes of sleep apnea ranging from obesity to respiratory problems. Identifying the cause and getting the right treatment is important. Reduce your weight with a healthy diet and regular exercise.Get treatment for underlying medical conditions that increase your risk of sleep apnea and its complications.

If you have sleep apnea, plan a healthy lifestyle and take treatment for any existing medical condition. Follow medical advice and go for regular check-ups to identify any possible long term effects of sleep apnea to get timely treatment.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 1, 2020

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