Sleep Apnea is a Threat to Your Heart

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is an unconscious pause in breathing while you’re asleep which can be due to a jammed airway or a signaling problem to the brain. Anyone who has this problem can unconsciously stop breathing from time to time while they sleep. Once their airway opens up again or the breathing signal is received causing the person to violently snort, take a deep breath or wake up quickly gasping or choking.

3 Causes of Sleep Apnea

Student sleeping on books

1. Muscles Relaxing During Sleep

The muscles that keep the airway open tend to relax a bit too much in your sleep and cause the airway to become narrow. This muscle relaxation does not happen due to your brain being active and awake when you are conscious.

2. Physical Obstructions

This occurs when there is an extra buildup of fat or thickened tissues around the airway. These blockages tend to limit the amount of airflow that can pass through.

3. Brain Function

The rarer form of sleep apnea which is called Central Sleep Apnea the neurological control for breathing are abnormal, causing the control and rhythm of your body to malfunction. CSA is usually associated with any underlying medical conditions such as strokes or heart failure.

Here are Some Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Tend to stop breathing, start gasping or choking up before dozing off again
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Struggle with concentration
  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up to urinate a lot at night
  • Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
  • Wake up with headaches
  • Get easily irritated
  • Experience heartburn
  • Suffer from erectile dysfunction and a decreased sex drive
  • If your neck circumference exceeds 17 inches for men and 15 inches for women

Here are 4 Ways in Which Sleep Apnea and Your Heart are Connected


Sleep apnea causes the oxygen levels in your blood to drop due to some of the signals from the brain being restricted to a blockage or slump in the airflow. This in turn raises your blood pressure to increase the flow of oxygen to your brain and heart while you sleep. Usually the blood pressure tends to drop by 20% when asleep but people who suffer from sleep apnea have their blood pressure shoot up by 10-20%.

Unfortunately this high blood pressure can overlap into your waking hours which increases your overall blood pressure. Here are 4 ways how your sleep apnea and your heart are connected:

1. Poor Sleep Affects Your Heart

Sleep apnea patients tend to get poor quality sleep as they are constantly being awakened, usually with a choking or gasping sensation. Sleep apnea was found to be common in roughly 47-83% of people with cardiovascular disease, 35% of people with high blood pressure and 12-53% with heart failure, atrial finrillation and stroke. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your chances of death from heart disease by up to 5 times.

2. Cardiovascular Problems Caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Having obstructive sleep apnea makes you more likely to have high blood pressure as 30% of people suffering from hypertension also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. There is a 50% chance that you have hypertension if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Patients suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnea are a lot more likely to also suffer from atrial fibrillation as compared to those who don’t suffer from sleep apnea.

Having obstructive sleep apnea makes you more susceptible to coronary heart disease in which your arteries harden and the small blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to your heart become narrow. These narrowed coronary arteries can lead to heart attacks.

70% of patients that were admitted into hospital due to coronary heart disease were discovered to have sleep apnea. The chances of untreated obstructive sleep apnea can develop heart failure.

3. Heart Disease Affects Sleep

Up to 44% of patients with coronary heart disease state that they suffer from insomnia. Recent population studies have shown that chronic sleep disturbance can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

A lot of researchers believe that insomnia is linked to cardiovascular health in two different ways.

A certain amount of sleep disturbance is normal but chronic sleep problems occur on most days, or everyday for months or years at a stretch.

4. Obstructive Sleep Apnea can Cause Heart Disease

The exact reason for this is not known but obstructive sleep apnea causes you to have frequent pauses in your breathing which cause you to wake up. This causes the oxygen level in your blood to drop. These frequent bouts of low oxygen while you sleep can damage the blood vessels which supply your heart as your heart beats faster after each episode which pushes your blood pressure up.

Severe obstructive sleep apnea can put a lot of pressure on your heart, causing it to become enlarged and reducing its efficiency due to less oxygen supply.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Solutions

The most successful and popular treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. You can reduce the chances of more serious health problems by treating the underlying conditions of heart disease of heart disease. Patients that were suffering from sleep apnea were treated with CPAP machines after which their daytime and night time blood pressure dropped.

If you doubt that you are suffering from sleep apnea and are worried about the health risks it poses then make sure to meet your sleep specialist and ask them if a sleep study is necessary for you.

Author Bio:  

GraceA dental marketer at Michael G. Long DDS and a believer in holistic health, Grace lives by the rule that health and happiness go hand in hand. She writes on various dental topics focusing on healthy living and holistic health. When she’s not working or blogging, she enjoys spending her time with her family and volunteering at the local youth centers where she educates children about the importance of health and fitness.