I have had sleep apnea for over 10 years and have no problems. I use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine every night.
(A) Hi L…
You don’t mention whether you have obstructive (OSA) or central sleep apnea (CSA), although the former is much more likely.
In either event, it essentially depends upon how well controlled the condition is and the presence of any worrisome signs and symptoms. Uncontrolled sleep apnea can increase the risk for high blood pressure and for heart attack, heart failure and irregular heartbeat. Also of concern to the diver, it can result in sleep deprivation and hypoxia that can impair attention, concentration, memory, and information processing and psychomotor speed.
Moreover, the diver with untreated, improperly treated or unresponsive sleep apnea probably has abnormal levels of CO2. These high levels of CO2 can be further elevated by diving at depth and increase the risk of nitrogen narcosis and of CO2 and O2 toxicity.
BTW, the nasty snoring that may accompany this disorder also can result in one’s significant other severely beating the affected person about the face and body during sleep.
This item that appeared in an Australian daily newspaper may prove informative:
“Coroner raps doctor over diver’s death April 24, 2009
A doctor should have more thoroughly investigated a man’s sleeping disorder before clearing him as medically fit to dive, an inquest has found.
Queensland coroner Michael Barnes found Dr Greg Emerson could have further queried Dr Stephen Broe’s sleep apnoea before certifying him as fit to undertake specialty deep dives in early 2005.
Dr Broe, 45, died on April 28, 2005, shortly after completing a dive to a depth of 50 metres off the coast of Moreton Island near Brisbane.
The inquest, held in Brisbane in March, was told Dr Broe had just completed the final dive in a technical deep-diving course when he immediately complained of burning pain in his chest and severe shortness of breath.
Despite assistance from people on the boat, Dr Broe lapsed into unconsciousness and died a few minutes later.
Mr Barnes on Friday found Dr Broe’s cause of death was decompression sickness, also known as The Bends.
In his findings, Mr Barnes said the effect of Dr Broe’s sleep apnoea on his ability to perform deep dives should have been further investigated.
However, he made no recommendations Dr Emerson be referred to the Medical Board, saying there was “no evidence the doctor was lax or cavalier” in his assessment of Dr Broe.
In his findings, Mr Barnes said diving doctors rarely come across sufferers of sleep apnoea.
Mr Barnes recommended a review of dive medical guidelines in light of evidence given during the inquest.
He also suggested the dive industry review how deep divers exit the water, saying the current standard practice for them to climb onto the back of the boat may place them under unnecessary exertion. AAP”
It should be noted that the article doesn’t mention what, if any, treatment the diver was undergoing for his sleep apnea. The individual who is being properly treated (e.g., CPAP) and responding well, has no worrisome nasal or other upper airway problems, and has none of the other conditions that can be related to obstructive sleep apnea and could raise the risk of SCUBA (e.g., depression, obesity, poor physical conditioning/abnormal exercise tolerance, pulmonary hypertension and other cardiac problems, sleepiness/lack of full alertness) should be able to dive safely.
I know of at least one diving medicine doctor who recommends a max depth of 60′ because of the gas pressure changes that occur at depth, but IMHO this may overly conservative in the diver who is in a state of good general health and fitness and entirely without signs or symptoms of sleep apnea beyond the defining feature of prolonged periods of significantly slowed or absent breathing while asleep.