Can Sleep Apnea Cause High Blood Pressure

Can Sleep Apnea Cause High Blood Pressure?

Sleep apnea blocks your airway while you sleep, making breathing hard and giving you less oxygen. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, the problem starts in the muscles in your throat. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, happens when the signals in the brain that help control breathing aren’t working right. A person could also have both of these kinds of sleep apnea. 

Let’s review sleep apnea and what you should consider if you are struggling with this sleep disorder. The bigger question is, does sleep apnea affect blood pressure? Let’s review the link between sleep apnea and hypertension below.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

First, diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea is most important to getting effective treatments that may help you sleep better and lower your blood pressure. Below are the common symptoms of sleep apnea to consider:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty with attention and memory
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Dry mouth when waking up
  • Irritability, anxiety, or depression

If you sleep with someone else in the same room or house, ask them if they’ve seen any of these signs while you were sleeping:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping for breath during sleep
  • Pauses in breathing while asleep

Facts About Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure

  • Researchers have found a link between obstructive sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Even though people with advanced heart failure often have central sleep apnea, their blood pressure is usually low. If there is a link between central sleep apnea and high blood pressure, it is still not clear what it is
  • High blood pressure can be caused by sleep apnea. When you sleep and sometimes stop breathing, your body releases stress hormones. The American Heart Association says that these hormones can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease in people who have obstructive sleep apnea
  • Obstructive sleep apnea can cause your blood pressure to stay high even when awake. Apneic periods, or times when you stop breathing, can happen while you sleep and keep your blood pressure high throughout the day
  • Treating sleep apnea can also reduce high blood pressure. As treatment for sleep apnea makes your breathing better, and your oxygen levels stay the same, your blood pressure may also get better. Some people can take less blood pressure medicine after treatment for sleep apnea. However, it would be best to talk to your doctor before making medication changes.

How Does Sleep Apnea Cause High Blood Pressure?

When you don’t get enough sleep, your heart has to work harder. Obstructive sleep apnea, in particular, makes the sympathetic nervous system work too much, which can lead to high blood pressure.

When the sympathetic nervous system is turned on, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure increases, your pupils get bigger, and your metabolism speeds up. All of these changes help us deal with stress, but too much activation of the sympathetic nervous system can lead to chronic high blood pressure.

Even if you stop breathing for just a second, the amount of oxygen in your blood can drop, known as hypoxia, while carbon dioxide can rise. This can make it harder for your heart to contract and pump blood to your body’s tissues.

Obstructive sleep apnea has other effects that may contribute to high blood pressure, including but not limited to the following:

  • Whole-body inflammation
  • Metabolic changes
  • Oxidative stress

Can You Still Have High Blood Pressure When you are Awake?

Changes in blood pressure caused by sleep apnea may not stop when you wake up. Even if you use a CPAP machine, you still need to take steps to lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can be reduced by taking medications and making changes to your lifestyle, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Keeping up a moderate weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Quitting smoking

Do Sleep Apnea Treatments Affect Blood Pressure?

Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated in many different ways. Not only does treatment help people sleep better, it could also help control high blood pressure. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common and effective way to treat sleep apnea.

The CPAP treatment entails wearing a face mask connected to a machine that pumps air into the lungs while you sleep. It works by keeping the airway from closing, which makes it easier for people with obstructive sleep apnea to sleep well. 

Studies on the effects of CPAP on people with high blood pressure and obstructive sleep apnea have shown that treatment with CPAP lowers blood pressure during the day and at night, especially for those with severe sleep apnea.

The Takeaway

The heart and lungs are closely linked and work best depending on how well they function together.

If you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep your blood pressure from rising or treating it if it already is. If high blood pressure or sleep apnea are not taken care of, they can lead to several additional issues. 

Are you struggling with possible sleep apnea? Do you think you have it? Take your free assessment now to get started with Livosa. We are here for all of your sleep needs. So let’s get your sleep schedule back on track!