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Sleep Apnea and Hypertension: What's Their Relationship?

Sleeping disorders are linked with a whole host of health problems, and one of the most potentially dangerous links is between sleep apnea and hypertension. Generally speaking, sleep apnea has a very degrading effect on a person’s overall level of health, and can lead to many different and sometimes dangerous conditions such as depression, diabetes, and hypertension. Therefore, it is important to understand everything about sleep apnea and how to treat it, in order to avoid it having any more damaging effects on your health.

Research has shown that there is a very strong link between sleep apnea and high blood pressure. It is estimated that around fifty percent of people with sleep apnea also suffer from high blood pressure, and also that the same percentage of people with hypertension also suffer from high blood pressure. 

However, these are merely estimates. The main problem in determining just how strong of a link between sleep apnea and hypertension there is lies in the diagnosis of sleep apnea. 

The majority of people with high blood pressure have been diagnosed by their doctor and are seeking treatment for this condition. However, sleep apnea remains largely undiagnosed in most individuals, and it is thought that as many as ninety percent of people suffering from sleep apnea have never been properly diagnosed. 

In fact, while people pay much closer attention to most aspects of their health nowadays, their quality of sleep and the effect that it has on the body is largely ignored. This is despite the fact that numerous studies have repeatedly shown that good quality sleep is just as important as a proper diet and exercise for a person’s overall level of health. 

Still, as more and more doctors are becoming aware about the effects of sleeping disorders on health, the diagnosis of sleep apnea has started to rise. Many doctors are now beginning to ask their patients several questions about their sleep when they are diagnosed with other disorders, including high blood pressure. 

sleep apnea and hypertensionThese questions normally involve asking whether or not the patient snores frequently, whether they often feel excessively sleepy during the daytime, and if their partner has ever observed that they stop breathing for short periods while sleeping. 

All of these are common symptoms of sleep apnea, and by asking these questions, doctors are able to easier diagnose sleep apnea and treat it as a cause of the patient’s other health problems. Still, many doctors continually ignore sleep apnea’s role in causing hypertension and other health problems. 


In fact, it is estimated that the majority of people who are finally diagnosed with sleep apnea have been showing symptoms of the disorder for an average of seven years, and have seen their doctor and other specialists numerous time due to other conditions related to or directly caused by sleep apnea. 


sleep apnea and hypertensionOf course, there is always the chance that the two conditions are not related, as being significantly overweight is a major contributing factor to both. 

Most likely, being overweight or obese may lead a person to develop both of these conditions, and sleep apnea might not actually be causing the hypertension. Read more about sleep apnea and weight gain here.

Nonetheless, there is some evidence to show that even sleep apnea sufferers who are not overweight are still at an increased risk for developing high blood pressure. 

This is because a lack of quality sleep, whether due to sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder such as insomnia, can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, both of which can severely degrade the body’s ability to function and regulate itself properly.

Research has also shown that during each apneic episode or cessation of breathing, a person’s blood pressure tends to spike, and often it will not return to normal levels until the person fully wakes up. This is because the lower levels of oxygen in the blood caused by the apnea cause the heart to pump harder and faster in order for the brain to get the oxygen it needs. Over time, this can cause a person’s overall twenty four hour blood pressure levels to remain abnormally high.

What Can You Do About Sleep Apnea and Hypertension?

sleep apnea and hypertensionThe question of what do to if you have both sleep apnea and high blood pressure is one that comes up quite often, and the best answer we can give you is to look at the cause of the conditions, specifically if you are overweight. If you are overweight, this is probably what is causing you to suffer from both sleep apnea and hypertension. 

Therefore, the first step will be to try and reduce your weight to a more healthy level through proper diet and exercise. In many cases, bringing yourself down to a healthy weight can help to reduce or even completely eliminate both conditions, so it is highly recommended.

Nonetheless, some people with sleep apnea still suffer from the condition even after losing a significant amount of weight. If this is the case, or if your doctor determines that you have more moderate to severe sleep apnea, then it is recommended that you immediately begin a sleep apnea treatment

For those with severe sleep apnea, there is basically only one option for treatment, and that is the use of a CPAP machine every night while you sleep. This machine will blow a constant stream of air into your lungs, allowing you to sleep more soundly and breathe normally while doing so. 

CPAP is a very effective, albeit somewhat uncomfortable treatment for sleep apnea. In addition, the use of CPAP therapy has been shown to have a very positive effect on reducing a person’s blood pressure not only when sleeping, but throughout the day. 

Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or show any of the symptoms, it is important to make an appointment to get the treatment you need, as it can not only reduce or eliminate your sleeping disorder, but also help prevent or eliminate other serious medical conditions, like hypertension.

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