Vows – In Sickness and In Health

Sleep apnea (Severe)

Untreatedsleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, and headaches.

Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated.

What are the long term effects of untreated sleep apnea?

If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD
  • Headaches

Snoring can make for a bad night’s sleep, for you and your bed mate. But if it happens because you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it’s a sign of a bigger problem.

The condition raises your risk for other health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.

It can even make you more dangerous on the road.

It can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of times in an hour that your breathing stops (apnea) or becomes very shallow (hypopnea). 

Apnea episodes may occur from 5 to 100 times an hour.

More than five apneas per hour is abnormal.

More than 30-40 per hour is considered severe sleep apnea.

15 times in every 10 minute interval.
60 minutes = 6 ten minute intervals.
6 x 15 = 90 apneas per hour

What are symptoms of severe sleep apnea?

Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day

Can sleep apnea cause dementia like symptoms?

Researchers found that sleep-disordered breathing leads to a buildup of brain beta-amyloid, a key marker for Alzheimer’s disease.

New studies released at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London this week show more evidence that sleep apnea contributes to a greater risk of dementia.

Can sleep apnea cause rapid weight gain?

Being overweight is still a high risk factor for the development of obstructive sleep apnea.

On one hand, carrying the extra weight can lead to breathing problems during sleep.

On the other hand, a person with a sleep-breathing disorder that isn’t treated, and who isn’t obese, may begin to gain weight as a result.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a chronic disease that involves repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep.

These breathing pauses can prevent your body from supplying enough oxygen to the brain.

In severe cases this lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage.  (not permanent)

Signs of this damage include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness.



Patient Support
The American Alliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS) is a patient-focused membership organization. It provides support services and advocacy for patients with all sleep disorders. The AAHS helps to improve the lives of patients with sleep disorders. Its work is powered by collaboration between patients and health care providers. The AAHS was established in 2017 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The AAHS offers several areas of support for patients with sleep disorders:


The AAHS delivers up-to-date coverage of news affecting the sleep community. Topics covered include recent research findings, regulatory changes affecting the provision of sleep care, and new events or programs benefiting sleep patients. The AAHS connects members to other sleep-related organizations. It also provides updates on opportunities to participate in sleep research.


The AAHS website informs members about financial assistance programs and support groups. The site includes the AAHS Parents’ Corner. It has resources for parents of a child with a sleep disorder. It also has healthy sleep information that can benefit all families.

The AAHS online community forum enables members to encourage and learn from one another. The AAHS welcomes all points-of-view and encourages dialogue between patients and providers.


The main priority of the AAHS is to improve the lives of patients with sleep disorders. Advocacy plays a key role in this process. The AAHS leads advocacy initiatives on issues affecting the sleep community. It also helps members contact their own legislators.

Patients can utilize AAHS resources to influence policy that affects their health and well-being. The AAHS continually provides new resources and services to improve and enhance the lives of patients with sleep disorders.

To learn more, visit www.sleepallies.org.



Resources for Health Care Professionals

The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project equips health care professionals with tools and resources to promote healthy sleep and screen for sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the project is led by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in collaboration with the Sleep Research Society (SRS) and other partners.

Healthy sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, along with nutrition and exercise. As a vital sign of good health and well-being, healthy sleep has a positive impact on nearly every key public health indicator. Healthy sleep reduces the risk of physical and mental health problems, accidents, injuries, disability and mortality.

The Healthy Sleep Project promotes the achievement of the Healthy People 2020 sleep health objectives:

  • Increase the proportion of persons with symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea who seek medical evaluation
  • Reduce the rate of vehicular crashes per 100 million miles traveled that are due to drowsy driving
  • Increase the proportion of students in grades 9 through 12 who get sufficient sleep
  • Increase the proportion of adults who get sufficient sleep

Health care professionals can help improve public health and safety by promoting healthy sleep and screening for sleep disorders.

Self-assessment tool: Are you at-risk for obstructive sleep apnea?
This resource helps patients identify the common symptoms of sleep apnea. It also helps them understand their risk factors for this chronic disease. Patients can download, print and complete this self-assessment to discuss their sleep apnea risk with their health care provider.

Provider Fact Sheet – Shift Work
This resource provides important information for clinicians about the risks of shift work disorder, a sleep disorder characterized by insomnia and/or excessive sleepiness that occurs when a recurring work schedule overlaps with the usual sleep episode. Clinicians can download and print this fact sheet, which provides tips for patients who participate in shift work.


Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations
A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the recommended amount of sleep for healthy children
Methodology and Discussion

Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult
A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society

Joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult
Methodology and Discussion

Development of the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project sleep health surveillance questions
Morgenthaler TI, Croft JB, Dort LC, Loeding LD, Mullington JM, Thomas SM

Quality measure for screening for adult obstructive sleep apnea by primary care physicians
Aurora RN, Quan SF

Delaying Middle School and High School Start Times Promotes Student Health and Performance
An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Statement

High school start times and the impact on high school students: what we know, and what we hope to learn
Morgenthaler TI, Hashmi S, Croft JB, Dort L, Heald JL, Mullington J


The Healthy Sleep Project assembled a workgroup of sleep medicine specialists to write professional education articles for health care providers on a variety of sleep-related topics. For permission to publish any of the following articles in your professional society magazine or newsletter, please contact the AASM at nhsap@aasm.org.

First Responders and Increased Risk for Sleep Deprivation
Shalini Paruthi, MD

Shift Work and Health
Tomasz J. Kuzniar, MD, PhD and Cathy A. Goldstein, MD

Atrial Fibrillation and Sleep Apnea: A Case Report
Tomasz J. Kuzniar, MD

Stroke and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Cathy Goldstein, MD, MS

Teenagers: Sleep Patterns and School Performance
Marlene Typaldos, MD and Daniel G. Glaze, MD, FAASM

Pediatric Populations at High Risk for Sleep Apnea
Daniel Combs, MD and Sairam Parthasarathy, MD

Indicators of and Screening for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Matthew Scharf, MD, PhD, and Ilene M. Rosen, MD, MSCE

Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Barry G. Fields, MD and Ilene M. Rosen, MD, MSCE

Diagnosis and Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome During Pregnancy
Jonathan P. Hintze, MD and Shalini Paruthi, MD

Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Commercial Drivers
Erin O’Shea, DO and Anthony Izzo, DO


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Project Healthy Sleep

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Updated June 22, 2016