08/25/2009 - News

Sleep Apnea Linked to Mortality Risk

By: June Chen, MD


Sleep-disordered breathing, or sleep apnea, is a common health condition associated with adverse health outcomes, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Now, evidence from the landmark Sleep Heart Health Study demonstrates that moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of death, especially in middle-aged men.

Researchers studied 6,441 men and women aged 40 years or older participating in the Sleep Heart Health Study in order to determine whether sleep apnea was associated with mortality. They found that individuals with severe sleep apnea had a 40% increased risk of death compared to those without sleep-disordered breathing. The researchers also discovered that the oxygen deprivation associated with as little as eleven minutes of sleep apnea a night doubled the mortality rate in men.   

Sleep apnea affects about 1 in 10 women and 1 in 4 men. The interruptions in breathing which occur with sleep apnea lower the level of oxygen in the blood and may cause individuals to arouse from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. The findings of this study show that sleep apnea is a major risk factor for mortality, independent of other major risk factors such as age, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, particularly among men aged 40 to 70 with severe sleep-disordered breathing.


Public Library of Science Medicine, published online August 18, 2009.

Created on: 08/25/2009
Reviewed on: 08/25/2009

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