What Are the Health Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea?

A man sleeps in bed with his mouth open while his wife lies awake next to him, irritated by his loud snoring.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder affecting millions of adults worldwide. It occurs when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep patterns and reduced oxygen levels in the body.

Understanding the health risks of untreated sleep apnea is crucial for those affected by this condition. Whether you suspect you or a loved one has this disorder, we’ll highlight the potential dangers associated with leaving it untreated so you can make proactive health decisions.

High Blood Pressure

One of the most significant risks of untreated sleep apnea is high blood pressure. During episodes of apnea, the oxygen levels in the blood drop, causing the brain to signal the blood vessels to increase the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain. This leads to nighttime spikes in blood pressure, which can persist even during wakefulness. Chronic high blood pressure can result in retinal vascular disease, significantly impacting vision and overall eye health.

Type 2 Diabetes

There is a strong link between untreated sleep apnea and the development of type 2 diabetes. Repeated interruptions in sleep can lead to insulin resistance, making it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. Over time, this can result in the onset of type 2 diabetes, further complicating the health of affected individuals.

Heart Disease

Untreated sleep apnea significantly increases the risk of various heart diseases. The constant struggle for oxygen places immense stress on the cardiovascular system, leading to an increased risk for conditions such as heart failure, heart attacks, and atrial fibrillation. Each of these conditions poses severe health risks and can drastically reduce the quality of life and overall life span of affected individuals.


Another critical health risk of untreated sleep apnea is stroke. The irregular breathing patterns associated with sleep apnea lead to fluctuations in blood pressure and oxygen levels, which can damage the blood vessels in the brain. This damage increases the likelihood of blood clots forming and causing a stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

For individuals suffering from this condition, understanding the health risks of untreated sleep apnea is essential. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are just a few of the serious health risks associated with leaving this sleep disorder untreated. Seeking treatment can lead to significant improvements in overall health and quality of life. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to explore treatment options.