Sleep Apnea and Hypertension: Deadly Combination

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder in which the patient suffers from breathing disorder during sleep. Hypertension along with sleep apnea makes the life of patients hell and sleep during night can be a death bed as they can choke and even die, if proper care is not taken on time.

In this article, we are going to look through how sleep apnea is connected to hypertension and also how they both can take a disastrous form all together. Here, we will also look at what are the causes for sleep apnea and also how they can be treated.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a potentially serious sleep disorder wherein the patient’s breathing starts and stops repeatedly. It is characterized by recurrent periods of complete or partial collapse of the upper airway during sleep (apnea and hypopnea), causing sleep fragmentation and frequent awakenings which often result in excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep Apnea can be easily recognized if someone snores loudly during sleep or is feeling tired after a full night’s sleep.

Sleep Apnea can be classified into 3 main types:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Most common form of sleep apnea, occurring due to relaxing of throat muscle.
  • Central Sleep Apnea – This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send proper instruction to the breathing muscles.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea – This type of sleep apnea is also commonly treated as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, which occurs when someone has both obstructive as well as central sleep apnea.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Loud Snoring
  • Gasping for air during night sleep
  • Dryness of mouth resulting in wakening of sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Morning Headache
  • Hypersomnia

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

  • Age – Middle aged and older people have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea
  • Gender – Research shows that men are more prone to Central Sleep Apnea as compared to women
  • Heart Disorder – Someone having congestive heart disorder has a higher risk of developing sleep apnea
  • Narcotic Pain Medicines – Consuming Opioid Medicines for a long time such as methadone, increases the risk of sleep apnea
  • Stroke – People who suffered from stroke, are at higher risk of developing Sleep Apnea

Complications:

  • Daytime Fatigue
  • High Blood Pressure or heart problems 
  • Liver Problems
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Complications with medication and surgery
  • Obesity

How Sleep Apnea and Hypertension are Interconnected?

sleep apnea and hypertension

Having sleep apnea with hypertension is a deadly combination and can be the worst for a patient. Sleep Apnea occurs when breathing is interrupted or it stops during sleep, resulting in increasing the risk for hypertension.

Study shows that hypertension sometimes causes sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea along with hypertension are significantly linked to increase in complications such as stroke and heart attack.

Research also shows that patients suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension have an estimate of 30% to 50% chance of also having sleep apnea.

However, it has been studied that patients who have tried a variety of treatments for resistant hypertension but couldn’t get their condition under control, have the highest chance of suffering from sleep apnea. Resistant hypertension is one of the major public health issues because uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to serious complications like stroke as well as heart attack.

Effect of Sleep Apnea on Hypertension

Research says that sudden drops of oxygen level if occurring during sleep apnea, results in an increase of blood pressure and strains the cardiovascular system. The risk of having hypertension also increases if the patient is having sleep apnea.

The risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation also increases if the patient is suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Research suggests that, if the patient is suffering from heart disease, and multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia), it can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.

Sleep Duration and Hypertension

Hypertension is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular death and disability, with over 1.3 billion people suffering from hypertension across the whole world. Preliminary study suggests that blood pressure increases from extending sleep disorder. Both short as well as prolonged sleep can cause change in blood pressure level.

Research has already shown that short sleep sessions are common among teenagers, and that’s the most common reason for fluctuating blood pressure levels. It is recommended to have 7-9 hours of sleep over 40 years of age to have a maintained blood pressure level.

Food Habits that affect Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea can be reduced by having Mediterranean Diet along with some nutritional food habits. Mediterranean Diet has fewer calories which results in staying fit as well as having lower abdominal fat. Low fat foods, cholesterol and sodium are good in lowering hypertension as well as sleep apnea.

Research says that olive oil, nuts, fish, beans, fruits and vegetables are some of the foods which help to reduce sleep-related breathing problems. This kind of food habits not only reduces sleep disorders but also are helpful in improving heart diseases, heart attacks as well as strokes.

Reducing red meat, foods with high fat content, sugar, soda, pastries, baked food items and processed foods helps in not only reducing sleep apnea but also in avoiding heart and blood pressure problems.

Treatment

In case of severe or moderate Sleep Apnea, you need to take therapies and in some cases surgery too.

Therapies Treatment For Sleep Apnea

Here are some of the common treatment therapies for sleep apnea

1) Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

In case of severe or moderate sleep apnea, the CPAP is helpful in creating an air pressure greater than the surrounding air pressure which helps in preventing sleep apnea and snoring during the sleeping period, by keeping the upper airway passages open.

The CPAP is a comfortable mask-type machine which is manually set to create the air pressure around the airway passage.

2) Other Airway Pressure Devices

If you are having problems in setting the air pressure in CPAP then, you can use the automatic CPAP (auto-CPAP) which automatically sets the pressure that you need in order to keep the upper airway passage open and preventing sleep apnea. Machines having units that supply Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure(BPAP) are also available.

3) Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)

ASV is a highly programmed airflow device which learns your breathing pattern and stores the information in its built-in memory and uses it to normalize the pressure after you fall asleep.

The ASV has the highest percentage of curing patients than other airflow pressure machines.

4) Oral Appliances

An oral appliance is designed to keep the throat open in order to prevent snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliances are usually available from dentists and are of different sizes.

Surgical Treatment For Sleep Apnea

Surgical options which can improve Sleep Apnea are as follows:

1) Tissue Removal

In this procedure, tissues are removed from the rear of the mouth as well as the top of the throat. The tonsils and adenoids are usually removed during the surgery. Tissue removal are helpful in stopping throat structures from vibrating and causing snoring.

2) Jaw Repositioning

In this procedure, the jaw is moved forward from the remaining face bones, which helps in enlarging the space behind the tongue and soft palate, thus making obstruction less likely. This procedure is known as Maxillomandibular Advancement.

3) Nerve Stimulation

This surgery is used to insert a stimulator in the nerve that controls the tongue movement (hypoglossal nerve). The stimulator helps to keep the tongue in a position that keeps the airway open.

4) Implants

Soft polyester or plastic rods are surgically implanted into the soft palate in order to keep the airway passage free of blockage.

Being overweight, smoking or nasal allergies can have a mild effect on sleep apnea. In these cases, your doctor can recommend you to lose some weight or quit smoking, and for nasal allergies, he can recommend you to get treatment for nasal allergies.

Conclusion

Sleep Apnea and hypertension are interrelated as sleep apnea can cause an increase in blood pressure. Sleep Apnea is very common in the recent world, and takes a disastrous form if the patient is having high blood pressure. Treatment is available for sleep apnea with hypertension, but if you are not aware about it, then the worst can happen.

FAQs

Q1) Why does sleep apnea cause hypertension?

Ans) Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which there is a difficulty in breathing during sleeping, which results in an increase of blood pressure and causes hypertension.

Q2) How much does sleep apnea raise BP?

Ans) Analysis has shown that on average, sleep apnea raises BP by a comparable level if not taken care for a prolonged period. On an average, BP is increased by a level of 5.5-3.7 per month.

Q3) Can I test myself for sleep apnea at home?

Yes, you can use home sleep apnea tests such as a simplified breathing monitor which keeps a track on the breathing level as well as on the oxygen levels. It studies the overnight sleep completely and gives a full assessment on the sleeping levels which are helpful in maintaining the track on the timings.

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