Can Snoring Cause Death? The Risk of Sleep Apnea

If you’ve ever been shoved violently in the middle of the night to turn over, you know that snoring can have consequences. But on top of annoying your partner and interrupting your sleep cycle, it’s possible that you could be suffering from a dangerous condition called sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can lead to or exacerbate high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke, and heart failure. In fact, people who snore because of sleep apnea have a 40 percent greater chance of dying early, Dying from snoring? Yes, It’s a real concern.

Do I Have Sleep Apnea?

According to the American Heart Association, 20 percent of adults have sleep apnea to some degree, though it’s more common in men than women.

The condition often goes undiagnosed but is very dangerous because it can cause you to stop breathing for short periods while you’re sleeping.

The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which affects the soft tissues of the throat. The issue occurs when the muscles of your throat relax as you sleep. The muscle relaxation narrows or closes the airway, limiting the amount of air you breathe in. 

Eventually, your blood oxygen level becomes so low that your brain wakes you to breathe, causing you to snort or gasp. This cycle can happen up to 5-30 times per night, keeping you from reaching deep sleep.

Central sleep apnea is less common. It occurs when your brain fails to tell your breathing muscles to work, keeping your body oxygen-deprived for short periods.

Could I Have Sleep Apnea: A Checklist

  • Loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Snorting or gasping
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat or coughing
  • Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
  • The need to sleep with your head raised
  • Headaches upon waking up
  • Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Irritability and depression
  • Mood changes
  • Memory problems
  • Excess weight (fat deposits can obstruct your breathing)
  • Thicker neck circumference
  • A narrowed airway, or tonsils/adenoids that block the airway
  • Being male (2-3x more likely than women)Being older
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
  • Smoking (3x more likely than nonsmokers)
  • Nasal congestionCertain medical conditions 
    • Congestive heart failure
    • High blood pressure
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome
    • Asthma

Sources: Healthline, Mayo Clinic,

How Can Sleep Apnea Affect My Health?

If you have severe sleep apnea, sleep experts say that you’re 40 percent more likely to die earlier than your peers. This is because the sleep disorder can cause or worsen many additional health problems — running the gamut from heart disease to diabetes.


Having sleep apnea can raise your risk of stroke by up to 3 times, according to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Another study showed that the intensity of snoring can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries of the neck, causing strokes. The louder your snoring, the worse the buildup.


About 38,000 people in the United States die each year from heart disease complicated by sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Sleep apnea causes low blood oxygen levels. When this happens, your body becomes stressed, causing your heart to beat faster and your arteries to narrow. This then leads to higher blood pressure and more inflammation and stress. In fact, data suggest that people with sleep apnea are twice as likely to have heart attacks. The Mayo Clinic also notes that obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of abnormal heartbeats, or arrhythmia. If you have heart disease, multiple episodes of low blood oxygen can lead to sudden death from atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia.


A Yale study has linked sleep apnea with Type 2 diabetes, finding that adults with sleep apnea have more than double the risk of developing diabetes than those without the sleep disorder. Additionally, sleep apnea is linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.


Daytime fatigue doesn’t sound like a serious risk, but consider this: Humans spend up to 35 percent of their lives sleeping. Missing out on crucial deep sleep because of sleep apnea can lead to severe daytime drowsiness, which in turn leads to. On top of tiredness, you may become more irritable, quick-tempered, and depressed, leading to problems, in business and personal relationships.


Complications with medications and surgery, especially general anesthesia, Abnormal liver functions or scarring and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) Source: Mayo Clinic

Sleep Apnea Treatments

The easiest way to avoid death by snoring (aka sleep apnea) is to seek treatment from a knowledgeable otolaryngologist such as Dr. Marc Kayem. Dr. Kayem has been fixing snoring and sinus issues for his patients for 25 years, giving him unparalleled experience. 

Dr. Kayem has performed thousands of successful procedures, both surgical and noninvasive. He is proud to offer, including:

  • Radiofrequency (RF) treatment – This is in-office, minimally invasive procedure uses low power, temperature-controlled radiofrequency energy to cure snoring related to the soft palate, turbinates, and the tongue.
  • Elevoplasty – Effectively stops airway obstruction by lifting the soft palate. It can be completed in one office visit – in just 10 minutes.
  • Pillar Procedure – An effective treatment for airway obstruction, the pillar procedure is unavailable at this date, as the inserts used in the procedure are not currently being manufactured.
  • Surgery to repair a deviated septum
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery or balloon sinuplasty
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
  • Hyoid suspension

Dr. Kayem will perform a thorough evaluation to determine the exact cause of your sleep apnea or snoring before suggesting a corrective procedure. Your anatomy and your health are unique, and Dr. Kayem will find just the right solution for you.

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