Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The link between OSA and high blood pressure is so strong that if you have one condition you’re likely to have the other. In fact, studies have shown that at least 50 percent of people with OSA also have high blood pressure, and vice versa.
More than just snoring
The signs and symptoms of OSA include heavy snoring that begins soon after you fall asleep. This is followed by snoring that becomes progressively louder and that is interrupted by pauses in your breathing that last for 10 seconds or longer. People with OSA can experience these pauses hundreds of times during sleep, awakening just enough to unconsciously restart their breathing, which in turn restarts the OSA cycle.
Some symptoms of OSA occur during waking hours. These include excessive and chronic tiredness because OSA interferes with restful sleep. OSA can also exacerbate depression in adults and hyperactive behavior in children.
Treat OSA to manage blood pressure
Ninety percent of people with OSA do know not they have it. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor if you have symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, heart attack and early death. Therefore, diagnosing and treating OSA is critical to your health.
Your doctor may have you undergo a sleep study. You’ll spend the night at a sleep study center and specialists will monitor and measure the electrical activity in your brain, your heart rate and breathing patterns while you sleep.
If a sleep study reveals that you have OSA, your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes such as sleeping on your side or stomach, lowering your use of alcohol and losing weight. Your doctor may even prescribe a special breathing mask to keep your upper airway open while you sleep.
If you or someone you know has high blood pressure or chronic fatigue, contact Little Company of Mary to learn more about OSA and how getting a good night’s sleep can lower your blood pressure and improve your health. Go to www.lcmh.org/sleep to learn more.