The most common cause of death during sleep among adults is obstructive sleep apnea, according to WebMD. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a narrowing or collapse of throat tissues during sleep, when risk of sudden death is highest.
Sudden death due to sleep apnea is most common during the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m, explains WebMD. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer at a time. This stoppage may occur up to 50 times an hour. Obstructive sleep apnea involves the blockage of the nose, mouth or throat. This condition most commonly occurs among obese people as fatty tissues in the neck press down on the airway. As many as one in four Americans may suffer from obstructive obstructive sleep apnea, states Daniel J. DeNoon in a WebMD article published in 2005.
People who remain untreated for obstructive sleep apnea have too little oxygen and too much carbon dioxide in their blood, which puts stress on their nervous systems and causes surges in blood pressure, explains WebMD. The walls of the heart become stressed and heart rhythms are disturbed. As a result, their blood clots easily and carries many damaging free-radical compounds. These conditions increase overall risk of death during the sleep hours