In the United States, 80% of people with mild to moderate sleep apnea go undiagnosed! Comorbidities, such as high blood pressure, often accompany sleep apnea, making it essential that everyone with sleep apnea address health conditions.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in the throat collapse during sleep and restrict the airway. When air passes over the restriction, a vibration occurs, emitting the sound we know as snoring. If you have been told you snore often, or think you may be snoring, then you should get tested for sleep apnea. Once the restriction is overcome, the brain will wake the body to resume breathing. If you are constantly woken up, you will not be able to get enough restorative sleep and may end up developing other health concerns, such as high blood pressure.
What is hypertension (high blood pressure)?
Your blood pressure is the amount of pressure your pumping blood applies to your blood vessels. When your blood vessels are pushed too hard, you get hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Hypertension is the result of the relationship between your systolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart is pumping) and your diastolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart isn’t pumping). According to the American College of Cardiology, hypertensive patients have a systolic or diastolic pressure greater than 130+/80+.
Hypertension is a serious condition because it can lead to heart disease and heart failure. 50% of patients with hypertension also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
What is the relationship between sleep apnea and high blood pressure?
A patient with untreated sleep apnea is 2.6 times more likely to suffer from heart disease and heart failure than a patient without sleep apnea. The brain works harder at night to keep your body breathing, so there is no apparent drop in blood pressure in patients with sleep apnea. A person without sleep apnea experiences a decrease in blood pressure during the night. This dip is normal because the heart slows down at night to allow it to recover.
At night, blood oxygen levels are also supposed to decrease in a healthy individual. When someone is struggling to breathe during the night, their blood oxygen levels do not have the opportunity to decrease, thus increasing blood pressure. The result of this is high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease in the long run.
It is important to note that hypertension is associated with obstructive sleep apnea. There is less clarity regarding whether central sleep apnea (in which the brain does not communicate adequately to control breathing) and hypertension are related.
How can sleep apnea and heart disease be treated?
Often, a whole-body approach is needed to treat sleep apnea and heart disease. The only way to determine whether you have sleep apnea is to undergo a sleep study. At-home sleep studies are convenient because you don’t have to go to a sleep lab; you can sleep in your own bed while a device monitors your sleeping patterns. You may be prescribed an oral device instead of a CPAP machine if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea. Other treatments, such as weight loss and diet management, may also help treat sleep apnea and hypertension. If you believe you suffer from either of these conditions, we recommend you consult with a cardiologist and sleep apnea specialist for any underlying issues that could be affecting your health.
For more information, please contact us today. By giving them a better night’s rest, we have been able to help hundreds of patients not only sleep better but also resolve other medical conditions they were dealing with. Our Glen Burnie Sleep Apnea office will guide you every step of the way to sleeping better!
Chesapeake Sleep Center
7711 Quarterfield Road, Suite C-1
Glen Burnie, MD 21061