Sleep plays a very important part in our overall physical health. It not only gives your brain the rest it needs, but it can also help to boost mood, productivity, and immunity, and can help to strengthen and repair the heart and circulatory system.
Yet as many as 20% of adults report having a sleep disorder or not getting enough sleep on a daily basis. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can affect anyone, including children.
A sleep disorder such as sleep apnea can not only affect your quality of life, but it can also lead to more serious medical conditions – such as high blood pressure. It causes breathing to stop and start repeatedly during sleep, which can put pressure on the blood vessels.
Loud snoring, awakening with a dry mouth, and tiredness during the day even after a full night’s sleep can be signs of sleep apnea. Let’s talk about the various types of sleep apnea and how it can influence blood pressure, and where you can go for an evaluation and treatment.
What Are the Types of Sleep Apnea?
There are three main types of sleep apnea, which include the following:
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea disorder. It occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax, causing the airway to narrow or close when breathing in. This prevents enough air from getting into your lungs and thereby lowers the oxygen level in the blood.
With obstructive sleep apnea, the brain senses the body’s inability to breathe, so this causes the person to wake up momentarily to take a breath – usually with a gasp, snort, or choke – but without them realizing what is happening. This can happen repeatedly through the night, preventing deep, restful sleep.
Central sleep apnea is less common and occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing, so there are periods of not breathing during sleep. People with this disorder may awaken with shortness of breath or find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep, is when a person suffers with both of the above conditions.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Certain risk factors can increase your risk of developing sleep apnea, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a thick neck circumference
- Having a narrowed airway, enlarged tonsils, or adenoids that can block the airway
- Being male
- Older age
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Certain medical conditions
- Nasal congestion
- Use of alcohol and certain medications such as sedatives
Connection Between High Blood Pressure and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause a number of health complications, such as increasing a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and heart problems.
Blood pressure is a measure of the force of the blood against the vessel walls throughout the body each time the heart pumps. Normally, blood pressure is naturally reduced at night while sleeping, thereby reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system. Blood pressure starts to rise again a few hours before waking, and it continues to rise (within a normal range) during the day – usually peaking in the middle of the afternoon, and dropping again by late afternoon and evening.
With sleep apnea, the body is being repeatedly deprived of oxygen each night, usually as a result of restricted airways, and thereby taking in less air. These sudden drops in blood oxygen levels impairs the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure, causing it to increase. If blood pressure is too high it puts added strain on the cardiovascular system and on other organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and eyes.
There is evidence to suggest that even isolated episodes of sleep apnea can impact the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure by compromising the person’s baroreceptors (biological sensors that regulate blood pressure), and that fluctuating oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea can begin to deteriorate the circulatory system.
High blood pressure rarely has noticeable symptoms. However, if it is left untreated, it can lead to serious health consequences like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Sleep Specialists in North Texas
If you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, get the help you need at the Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas. Our sleep medicine specialists diagnose and treat a variety of sleep disorders to restore your overall health and sleep quality.
To find out more about the services we provide or to make an appointment, call us at our Weatherford, Texas office today at (817) 594-9993 or request an appointment now by filling out our online form. We look forward to helping you get a great night’s sleep again.