Sleep Apnea and COVID 19: Higher Risk Factors and Severe Infection

covid 19 and sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing gets severely impacted during a night’s sleep leading you to feel tired and irritated. It can take potentially serious forms if left untreated for long times. In fact, obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to COVID-19 according to scientific research.

Though it is a still-evolving topic of research considering the mutating nature of COVID-19, patients with obstructive sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing comorbidities associated with COVID-19.

Sleep Apnea: Causes and Risk Factors

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing gets impaired during sleep, leading to repeated obstructions in sleep. This means a person with the problem may be at the risk of lower oxygen levels during sleep that could be potentially harmful.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses, it leads to obstructive sleep apnea. This leads to blockages in the airway, leading to discomfort and other issues. This also happens to be the more common of the two types of sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea

If there is instability in the respiratory control center, the brain fails to communicate clearly to muscles to breathe, leading to complications during sleep.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

There are many symptoms of sleep apnea that you need to be aware of. It is imperative you get in touch with a healthcare professional as soon as you spot them. Leaving these untreated could be dangerous.


  • Heart issues
  • Diabetes
  • Blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Strokes
  • Difficulty doing everyday activities due to fatigue and tiredness

Sleep Apnea and COVID-19: All You Need to Know

According to findings published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, obstructive sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for COVID-19, even leading to hospitalization in severe cases.

COVID-19 has also proven to be more dangerous in patients with other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart diseases, etc. These are all symptoms that are common in people with sleep apnea.

What Symptoms Should Make You Worried?

In case you have sleep apnea and are also suffering from some other symptoms such as sore throat, headache, tiredness, fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, loss of smell and taste and have issues with sleep, you should immediately contact your doctor. These could be a hint of COVID-19 too and must be treated immediately.

Why Sleep Apnea Raises Risks of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an evolving ailment that has shown various symptoms, all of which are not easy to explain. In fact, the mapping of symptoms and treatments has been fairly wide because the virus is known to mutate every few days and that adds to the complexity.

The reason why sleep apnea raises risks of COVID-19 seems to be the shared causes or risk factors behind both ailments. Strangely, according to researchers, the reasons for this could be both behavioral and biological.

Risk Factors for COVID-19 and Sleep Apnea

Now that you know that there is a serious correlation between COVID-19 and sleep apnea, it is important that you also know who is at a greater risk of both these ailments and take necessary precautions to remain safe and healthy.

Here are the people who are at a greater risk of sleep apnea and, therefore, COVID-19:

Obesity: This is one single ailment that is the root cause of several serious diseases in people. Obesity can not only degrade the quality of life but also lead to serious health issues such as heart problems, cholesterol, stroke, etc.

It also obstructs the upper airway in the body, causing difficulties in breathing, thereby putting you at a greater risk of sleep apnea.

Narrow Airway: This is also the cause of sleep apnea in some people. Tonsils, especially in young children, are also a cause of concern.

Being Old and Male: men and people who are older are at a greater risk of sleep apnea and also COVID-19.

Smoking: If you are a regular smoker, you are at a greater risk of getting sleep apnea and a ton of other issues.

Family History: If you have family members who suffer from sleep apnea, there are fairly good chances that you may also inherit the problem.

Others: Some other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, PCOD, high blood pressure can also lead to sleep apnea.

If you look closely, most of the risk factors also make one susceptible to COVID-19. Older people are at a greater risk of COVID-19 and so are people with obesity and serious problems such as heart diseases.

This may be partly due to the fact that these problems make the body’s immune system weaker and more susceptible to infections and viruses.

What to Do in Case of Severe COVID-19 Infection?

The use of CPAP and certain other oral devices and therapies are prescribed for people with sleep apnea. If you suffer from the problem, it is best to stick to these consistently. These will not only help you sleep soundly, but also keep you protected from the risk of contracting a severe COVID-19 infection.

Besides, it is crucial to be always on your guard against COVID-19. COVID-19 appropriate behavior must be maintained at all times. This is true for even those who are not at a big risk of covid.

Some additional tips include:

  • Immediate isolation in case you have any symptoms that are not normal.
  • Consuming adequate fluids at all times.
  • Wearing masks in public places and using a sanitizer at regular intervals to avoid any scope of infection.
  • Appropriate respiratory etiquettes at all times.

Remember, prevention is the best cure.

Final Words

Though preliminary, there is still substantive research to show the definitive connections between COVID-19 and sleep apnea.

It is, therefore, important to maintain a healthy lifestyle that mitigates the risk factors for sleep apnea and subsequently COVID-19.

If there are conditions beyond one’s control, it is best to attend to symptoms as soon as you notice them.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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