Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure a Dangerous Pair
Many people think sleep apnea is as simple as loud snoring, but it’s much more than that. Sleep apnea affects many systems in the body and is associated with several serious conditions like high blood pressure.
High blood pressure puts a daily strain on the cardiovascular system which may lead to stroke, heart disease, and other serious conditions. Fortunately, managing high blood pressure with medication and lifestyle changes can reduce your risk for harmful health effects.
It’s important to understand the relationship between sleep apnea and high blood pressure because these two conditions affect one another, and treatment for sleep apnea can lower blood pressure in people who have both.
Sleep Apnea, like high blood pressure, isn’t normally something people usually detect on their own. If you have sleep apnea, you likely don’t know about it unless you’re keeping your bed partner up at night by snoring or that you are gasping in your sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles that support the soft tissues in your throat, such as your tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax. When these muscles relax, your airway is narrowed or closed, and breathing is momentarily cut off. Individuals with sleep apnea stop breathing for short periods of time when sleeping. Pauses in breathing can last just a few seconds to a few minutes and occur as little as 5 to as many as 30 times per hour.
Every time your oxygen level drops, this raises your blood pressure and causes an adrenaline surge. This puts increased stress on your heart because it must work harder to normalize your blood pressure.
What Is the Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure?
In healthy individuals, blood pressure naturally lowers by between 10 and 20% at night, a phenomenon that is sometimes referred to as “blood pressure dipping“. People with severe OSA experience blood pressure dips less than 10%, which indicates a “non-dipping” blood pressure pattern.
People who have non-dipping blood pressure at night face an increased risk for cardiovascular issues. Additionally, many patients with OSA experience a sudden and pronounced elevation of their blood pressure when they wake up in the morning. This “morning surge” is another factor that may increase risk for cardiovascular disease. OSA doesn’t only affect blood pressure at night. Studies show that daytime blood pressure levels also increase with sleep apnea severity.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States. Of people diagnosed with OSA, it is estimated that around half also have high blood pressure. The good news is that treatment for sleep apnea may aid in lowering blood pressure levels.
If you are suffering from high blood pressure it may benefit you to get checked for sleep apnea. Call one of our sleep medicine professionals today and get on the road to a healthier and happier you!