Sleep apnea is not just a nuisance, it’s a serious health condition with many health complications, including high blood pressure. Yes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure typically go hand in hand. Because as many as one in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea, it is vital to know the warning signs of sleep apnea and high blood pressure so you can seek appropriate treatment.
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure
Sleep is far from a passive state. Your body uses sleep as a time to rest and renew its energy; quite a bit happens in your body as you sleep.
When someone suffers from sleep apnea, they experience pauses in breathing while sleeping. These pauses can happen anywhere from 5 to 30 or more times per hour, preventing sufferers from getting a restful night’s sleep. When you are not breathing well, your blood-oxygen levels drop, increasing the strain on your cardiovascular system.
During sleep, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over your body, your breathing becomes more regular, you heart rate decreases and your blood pressure falls. During REM sleep, your sympathetic nervous system takes over intermittently and while you dream, your blood pressure can change dramatically.
Research indicates that blood pressure generally falls by 10 to 20 percent during sleep.
When you wake suddenly, due to something like a nightmare or a pause in breathing from sleep apnea, sympathetic activity surges, adrenaline is released into the bloodstream and blood pressure rises.
When blood-oxygen levels drop at the same time, as they frequently do when you have sleep apnea, the heart rate can become irregular and dangerous heart issues can occur.
Even more concerning, this sympathetic surge caused by sleep apnea is thought to carry over into the waking state. Research finds that sleep apnea patients have higher levels of adrenaline during the day, as well as higher resting blood pressure. Fortunately, those who receive snoring and sleep apnea treatment appear to have lower blood pressure.
The severity of blood pressure issues is generally related directly to the severity of sleep apnea. If you believe that you have sleep apnea, it is important to be evaluated by a board certified ear, nose and throat doctor so that you can receive the appropriate treatment, right away.
What Are the Benefits of Treatment for Sleep Apnea?
Since the relationship between sleep apnea and high blood pressure is well known, much of the current research focuses on how treatment impacts blood pressure and other health concerns. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for sleep apnea that can reduce the health risks of the condition, including abnormal blood pressure levels.
Anywhere from 30-50% of adults with high blood pressure also suffer from sleep apnea. The condition is also more common in patients who have tried many treatments for their blood pressure but cannot get it to fall within normal levels. When sleep apnea is treated, the probability of returning to normal blood pressure levels increases, however, blood pressure should be consistently monitored, even after sleep apnea treatment.
High blood pressure is just one of the many symptoms of sleep apnea, which also include snoring, daytime sleepiness, mood changes, dry mouth and sore throat. With appropriate treatment, each of these additional symptoms can also be reduced or eliminated.
Seek Help For Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure from a Sleep Specialist
If you are concerned that you have sleep apnea and high blood pressure, get help from one of our specialists. The board certified sleep doctors (otolaryngologists) at eos sleep regularly diagnose and treat snoring and sleep apnea patients and will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan.
While treatment with bulky CPAP masks and equipment is common, there are now many minimally-invasive treatments available which can provide long-term and even permanent relief from snoring and sleep apnea. To make your appointment, contact us today. We will help you to get your sleep apnea and high blood pressure under control.