0800 024 8050

Can sleep apnoea be fatal? Could I choke to death in my sleep?

Can sleep apnoea be fatal? Could I choke to death in my sleep?

These are questions that many people, newly diagnosed with sleep apnoea, will ask their doctors.

Here’s the truth: yes, you can indeed choke to death in your sleep!

Sleep apnoea is a very serious condition that literally means a person has stopped breathing during the night’s sleep.

In fact, one study found that people with severe sleep apnea were up to three times more likely to die prematurely, and that risk increases if the sleep disorder is not treated.

What’s going on?

Sleep is very important to human existence. We humans spend up to 35% of our lives sleeping. When we sleep, both body and brain get restorative rest to recover from the stresses of everyday life.

That’s why sleep problems can cause a range of health problems with dire consequences.

Sleep apnea is common among people who snore loudly. They have frequent pauses in breathing that may be caused by an obstruction in the airway — often the tongue. Or the brain may misfire, and not prompt a breath.

The result is the same in either case. The body’s oxygen levels fall, carbon dioxide levels rise, and there is a spike in blood pressure, and heart rate. Hormones like cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) increase as the body struggles to breathe.

Sudden death is just one medical condition linked with sleep apnoea.

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and glaucoma have been linked with sleep apnoea. Also, the fatigue you feel leads to accidents at work and in the car. You can pose a threat to yourself and others when you drive while fatigued.

Sleep apnoea is linked to systemic inflammation, the cause of chronic diseases, experts say.

When there are pauses in breathing, the oxygen levels in your blood drops, which triggers your brain to increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This is the “fight or flight” stress response as your body struggles to wake up, so you can start breathing again.
In addition, there will be chronic cycles of accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure due to inflammation throughout your body.

This chronic inflammation may contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries (called atherosclerosis), which puts strain on the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Heart disease includes atrial fibrillation, heart attack, and heart failure.

Chronic inflammation can also cause type 2 diabetes as it damages the pancreas. Risk is also increased for pre-diabetes, aka, metabolic syndrome (includes abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and excess body fat)

All this increases your risk of early death.

Sleep apnoea also damages other organs, leading to:

  • Glaucoma (as the optic nerve is damaged by decreased oxygen)
  • Pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, gestational high blood pressure, and preeclampsia
  • Asthma
  • Liver damage

Sleep apnoea also leads to cognitive and mental health complications such as:

  • Fatigue and daytime sleepiness
  • Attention problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Poor performance in school (children can have sleep apnoea)

Also, your bed partner’s sleep is affected by your snoring — which can cause them to have sleep deprivation, along with the health problems. Plus it can put a big strain on your relationship.

All these increased risks has caused sleep experts to call sleep apnoea a “ticking time bomb.” Over time, the damage can be deadly.

Dangers at work and on the road

When you feel fatigue, there’s a real risk of falling asleep. This can happen when you’re driving or at work, and is the cause of many accidents. Train crashes have also been linked to fatigued engineers falling asleep at the wheel due to undiagnosed sleep apnoea.

Drivers with untreated sleep apnea can endanger themselves and others on the road. Any truck driver who makes a living with long trips, driving at night, are an especially big risk.

One study in the journal Sleep found that truck drivers who do not adhere to their sleep apnoea treatments had a 5-fold risk of a preventable crash compared to truck drivers without sleep apnoea.

Do you have sleep apnoea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), a very serious disorder that keeps you sleep-deprived — and sleepy — day in and day out. This medical problem can take a terrible toll on your health as your body isn’t getting the oxygen it requires to function properly.

You may even stop breathing at night. In fact, you could die in your sleep. It’s just that serious.

A few questions to help you know if you have OSA:

Are you sleepy during the day, have trouble concentrating at work?
When you’re in bed sleeping, do you snore? Has your partner complained of snoring?
Do you ever wake up with a snort, gasping for breath, like you’re choking?
Do you wake up with a headache?
Are you overweight?
Do you have a large neck?
Also, do you have any of these medical problems:
High blood pressure
Coronary artery disease
Congestive heart failure
Heart attack
Atrial fibrillation
Type 2 diabetes

If you have answered YES to many or all of these questions, you may have this serious sleep disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

A simple overnight test will inform you

To learn if you have OSA, a simple test will let you know. This sleep test is called “overnight oximetry” and it is designed to assess the level of oxygen in your body when you are asleep.

You simply wear a little sensor over one finger while you sleep; that’s all there is to it!

The finger sensor is connected to technology that tracks your body’s oxygen level during the night. This tracking will tell sleep experts whether you might have sleep apnoea. You will need to use the oximetry machine in your own home for two consecutive nights.

Here’s the bad news about NHS sleep apnoea testing

The NHS provides an at-home sleep test that requires multiple appointments:

  • Appointment with the doctor
  • Appointment to collect the equipment at hospital
  • Appointment to discuss the result with the doctor
  • …and most likely, an appointment to return the equipment to the hospital

This assumes that the oximetry test catches sleep apnoea at the first attempt. It’s very possible that as many as 30% of cases need a more in-depth study, which is typically an overnight polysomnography (PSG) at hospital.

All this can take several months, waiting for various appointments.

How You Can Get Tested for Sleep Apnoea Discreetly, Quickly

There is a discreet, completely confidential in-home sleep test you can take to get your results.

You’ll get your results directly, and the NHS & DVLA won’t ever see it – unless you share it.

Here’s the streamlined Intus Healthcare In-Home Sleep Test:

  • Convenient – delivered to your doorstep overnight.
  • No time off work – You won’t make a trip to hospital to get the testing device or return it.
  • You won’t need appointments with a doctor before or after taking the test.
  • Affordable – The cost of an Intus test is less than a day off work might cost — £199.
  • Comfortable -Testing is all done at home, so there’s no overnight stay in hospital.
  • Accurate results – Test is evaluated by NHS-trained sleep specialists, with accuracy comparable to PSG testing.
  • Fast results -Takes less than 3 weeks from ordering to results (NHS testing takes several months waiting for various appointments).
  • Confidential – We never share results with your GP or the DVLA. We will only share the test results with you, and you will take it from there. You can pursue the treatment you need.

Visit this site to learn more about the convenient, confidential, comfortable, accurate, and affordable Home Sleep Test for Sleep Apnoea from Intus Healthcare: https://www.sleeptest.co.uk

What is an At-home Detailed Sleep Test?

This is a private test conducted in your own bed. The simple equipment is sent to you to wear at home. It is then returned, and the results professionally analysed by a qualified sleep specialist.

The At-Home Detailed Sleep Test works by monitoring your heart rate and blood oxygen levels throughout the night. In many cases, this alone would be enough to identify Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

However, in addition to these, the At-Home Detailed Sleep Test also records your body position, body movements, snoring intensity, and crucially your Peripheral Arterial Tone – a key physiological signal that can indicate respiratory disturbances during sleep. You must also fill in a medical questionnaire.

A Detailed Sleep Test provides the most efficient, affordable way to have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea professionally confirmed.

Here’s the truth: yes, you can indeed choke to death in your sleep. Sudden death is a real risk.

Learn whether you have sleep apnoea — and get the treatment you need.

Take the first step today. Take an At-Home Detailed Sleep Test.


About author: Jenny Hall is a clinical manager at Intus Healthcare’s parent company, Baywater Healthcare. She has extensive specialist clinical experience from Regional Nurse Adviser through to Senior Nurse Adviser, Service Lead and Contract Manager. She has provided leadership for the Regional Nurse Advisers ensuring best practice, implementation of National Guidance and Clinical Governance. Ms. Hall has worked with Baywater Healthcare since 2013, with leadership responsibility in delivering Home Oxygen and Long-Term Conditions services. Her clinical team focuses on delivering services closer to home which offer the NHS value with optimum clinical outcomes. Previously, Ms. Hall provided leadership to Regional Nurse Advisors with Air Products, a company providing home oxygen services to Wales, East Midlands and North London. She has served as a Senior COPD National Trainer and Nurse Adviser COPD Response with Innovex, ensuring highest competencies were maintained and best practices delivered. Ms. Hall has a Ba Honours Degree as a Registered General Nurse from Oxford Brookes University and MSc Health Studies from Staffordshire University. She completed Respiratory Education and Training Courses and the Edinburgh Sleep Course. Jenny Hall’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-hall-34331b60/
In-Home Sleep Test

In-Home Sleep Test

In-home Sleep Test provides a quick, convenient and affordable way to have Sleep Apnoea confirmed. All studies are independently analysed by experienced NHS-qualified sleep professionals, and use the WatchPAT recording device for unrivalled accuracy.
More info £195.00

Contact Us

Do you have any questions?


0800 024 8050 (from UK) or +44 800 024 8050 (non-UK) (9am - 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday)


0844 504 9494 (from UK) or +44 844 504 9494 (non-UK))

Head Office Address:

2 Walton Business Centre
46 Terrace Road
Surrey KT12 2SD United Kingdom

Still have questions? We'd love to answer them. Let us call you back!