Sleep disordered breathing and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are caused by the relaxation of the airway muscles and the tongue. As the airway narrows, the body senses the danger and adrenaline levels spike up causing an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Additionally, the brain responds by arousing the body from deep sleep, opening the airway and allowing breathing to resume fora few seconds.
Frequently, with OSA the body’s oxygen levels drop to critical levels. This can also be associated with heart rhythm irregularities. OSA not only causes daytime fatigue but can cause severe cardiovascular problems including hypertension (50% of patients), arrhythmia (5O% of patients) particularly atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, heart attacks (71% of patients), heart failure (53% of patients), stroke (4 times increased risk), and sudden cardiac death.
A Good Night’s Sleep Protects Your Heart
Sleeping Less than 6 Hours per Night
A 2011 scientific review showed that there is a 48% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 15% greater risk of stroke in "short sleepers." Shortened sleep is also known to be related to increased calcium deposits in the heart leading to coronary artery disease, known to make hypertension worse, and to negatively impact blood pressure and heart rate.
Sleeping More than 9 Hours per Night
The study also found that those who sleep nine or more hours a night have a 38% increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 65% increased risk of stroke.
Poor Quality Sleep
Poor sleep increases risk for diabetes and increases stress and inflammatory hormones, which increase cardiovascular risk.
Treatment Improves Your Health
The main treatment of significant OSA is Nasal Positive Airway Pressure devices (NPAP). There are many different forms of this treatment. The most common form of treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). It is well documented that CPAP therapy has a large beneficial effect on improving blood pressure, heart function and arrhythmia. There is up to an 80% chance of recurrence of atrial fibrillation in untreated OSA. Recurrent strokes and mortality from heart failure may be reduced with proper CPAP therapy. Proper use of CPAP is known to improve type 2 diabetes. Treatment has been shown to improve long-term cardiovascular outcomes.