The Long-Term Dangers Of Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea, a disorder affecting sleep, can be severe if not treated. Sleep apnoea causes a patient’s breathing to suddenly stop and start during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnoea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea: The most common type arises due to throat muscles relaxing.
  • Central sleep apnoea: When the brain fails to send messages to the breathing mechanisms.
  • Complex sleep apnoea syndrome: This occurs when someone has both central sleep apnoea and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea include:

  • Snoring
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Fatigue during the day

The dangers of sleep apnoea

Is sleep apnoea a harmless inconvenience, or are there long-term dangers of which you should be aware? If not treated, sleep apnoea can lead to conditions such as:


The correlation between sleep and your mood means that those with sleep apnoea are more likely to suffer from depression than those without. Insomnia, often a factor in sleep apnoea, affects the ability to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern and can cause depression. Sleep apnoea contains many risk factors that can lead to depression.

Memory loss

Sleep apnoea is heavily linked to mild cognitive impairments, often early in a person’s life. Although these are not enough to seriously affect someone’s life, it does cause forgetfulness and amnesia. It occurs due to the lack of sleep the body receives and low blood oxygen. Sleep apnoea causes the sufferer to wake repeatedly through the night, interrupting the brain’s ability to categorise memories.

Acid reflux

Many with sleep apnoea also suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux. Acid reflux, and the associated heartburn, often worsen in the evening and keep patients awake. Sleep apnoea can cause acid reflux by changing the air pressure in your lungs, forcing stomach acid into the oesophagus. If untreated, acid reflux can damage the tissue in the oesophagus.

Heart problems

Patients with sleep apnoea have an increased risk of developing heart conditions such as irregular heart arrhythmias, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Sleep causes the body’s blood pressure and heart rate to drop, allowing the body to get the rest it needs. Sleep apnoea interrupts this, and the continual pauses in breathing may damage the cardiovascular system.


Many people suffering from sleep apnoea experience constant fatigue during the day. This is due to the sudden restrictive breathing that wakes them, causing tiredness and a lack of energy. This can make it difficult to focus on work or when driving.

Contact us for more information

At ENT Sheffield, we can provide expert advice and treatment to help you to overcome your sleep apnoea, particularly obstructive sleep apnoea. To find out more, please get in touch today and one of our team will be pleased to help you.