Is There a Link Between High Blood Pressure and Sleep Apnea?
As many as 80% of people with mild to moderate sleep apnea in the US are undiagnosed! With the many comorbidities – including high blood pressure – that come with sleep apnea, it is essential for everyone with sleep apnea to address health conditions.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder wherein a patient’s soft throat tissues collapse during sleep, causing your airways to restrict. (As air passes over this restriction, a vibration occurs, emitting the noise we know as snoring. If you have been told you snore regularly, or think you may be snoring, you should get tested for sleep apnea) As a result of this restriction, the brain will wake up the body to resume breathing. By being continuously woken up, you cannot receive enough restorative sleep and are at risk for a variety of other medical concerns – including high blood pressure.
What is High Blood Pressure (or Hypertension)?
Blood pressure is the measure of the amount of pressure your pumping blood is placing on the walls of your blood vessels. When the force applied to your blood vessels is too great, you have what is called hypertension.
Hypertension is the relationship between the systolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart is pumping) and the diastolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart is not pumping). According to the American College of Cardiology, patients are classified as ‘hypertensive’ when their systolic/diastolic is greater than 130+/80+.
Hypertension is a concern because it is a precursor for heart disease and heart failure. As many as 50% of patients with hypertension also suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
How is Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure Related?
Patients with untreated sleep apnea are 2.6 times more likely to suffer from heart disease and heart failure than adults who do not suffer from sleep apnea. Through observations, patients with sleep apnea do not experience a drop in blood pressure at night – probably because the brain is working harder to keep your body breathing at night. People without sleep apnea do experience a drop in blood pressure at night. This dip is normal because the heart will slow down at night to allow it to recover.
Blood oxygen levels in a healthy body are also supposed to increase at night. When someone is struggling to breathe during the night, their blood oxygen levels do not have the opportunity to decrease at night, thus increasing blood pressure. All of this leads to high blood pressure and, eventually, if left untreated, heart disease.
It’s important to note – there has been a link discovered between hypertension and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is less clear if there is a connection between Central Sleep Apnea (when the brain is not sending the appropriate signals to control breathing) and hypertension.
What Should Be Done to Treat Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease?
For many people, a whole-body approach is necessary to treat sleep apnea and heart disease. The only way to rule out or confirm sleep apnea is to take a sleep study. An at-home sleep study is great because you don’t have to go to a sleep lab; you can sleep in your bed while a device tracks your sleep patterns. If the test confirms sleep apnea, a CPAP alternative, such as an oral device, can be created for you. Other treatments, such as weight loss and diet management, can also help treat sleep apnea and hypertension. If you believe you suffer from either of these, we encourage you to connect with a cardiologist and sleep doctor to address any underlying issues that could be contributing to your health problems.
For more information, please contact us today. We have been able to help hundreds of patients not only sleep better but also resolve other medical conditions they faced by giving them a better night’s rest. Our team of experts will guide you every step of the way to sleeping better!