The relationship between sleep apnea and high blood pressure

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After a long day, there’s nothing better than getting some rest. But, if you have sleep apnea, sleep is stressful.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects more than 20 million Americans.¹ It causes you to temporarily stop breathing while sleeping. Sleep apnea also increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. 

CenterWell Pharmacy can help you learn more about the condition, its symptoms, and how to manage them. 

Different types of sleep apnea

There are 3 types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): blocks airflow to the lung, causing you to snore loudly and wake up multiple times gasping for air. OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, as it affects 4–7% of the general population and 30–40% of people with high blood pressure.²

Central sleep apnea (CSA): causes problems with how the brain communications with the breathing muscles. CSA develops in 30–50% of people with heart failure.³

Mixed sleep apnea: when people experience OSA and CSA at the same time, also called complex sleep apnea.⁴

Symptoms of sleep apnea

The symptoms of OSA and CSA can overlap, which can make it hard to determine the type of sleep apnea someone has. Common symptoms include:⁵

  • Chronic, loud snoring
  • Waking up with dry mouth or sore throat
  • Temporarily stop breathing while sleeping (someone watches you sleep to see if this happens)
  • Gasping for air while sleeping
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty staying asleep

If you think you have sleep apnea, please talk to your healthcare provider. They may do an overnight sleep test to confirm a sleep apnea diagnosis. During the test, you’ll wear special equipment to monitor your heart, lungs, brain, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements and blood oxygen levels.⁶

Sleep apnea and high blood pressure

Obstructive sleep apnea increases blood pressure because the body is working twice as hard to get oxygen. If OSA is untreated, it can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease.⁷

It can also cause:⁸

  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Liver problems  

Central sleep apnea isn’t known to increase blood pressure.⁹

Treating sleep apnea and high blood pressure

There are many ways to treat sleep apnea and high blood pressure. To start, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes like losing weight, being more active or quitting smoking.

They may also suggest wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine while sleeping and taking blood pressure medications. A CPAP machine pumps air into your lungs through a facemask.¹⁰ If you have an over-the-counter (OTC) benefit with your Humana plan, you can order a CPAP machine from our OTC store. 

Blood pressure medications, when taken as directed, can help lower high blood pressure. If your healthcare provider prescribes you a blood pressure medication, it’s quick and easy to start a new prescription with CenterWell Pharmacy.

A good night’s sleep

Sleep apnea with high blood pressure is manageable with the right treatment and some lifestyle changes. A night of restful sleep and healthy blood pressure are possible. If you have concerns about how the CPAP machine or a new blood pressure medication may interact with your medicines, please give us a call at 800-379-0092 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Eastern time.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.

Sources:

  1. “Sleep Apnea Information for Clinicians,” American Sleep Apnea Association, last accessed January 14, 2022, https://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea-information-clinicians/.
  2. “How Sleep Apnea Affects Blood Pressure,” Sleep Foundation, last accessed January 10, 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea/how-sleep-apnea-affects-blood-pressure.  
  3. “How Sleep Apnea Affects Blood Pressure.”
  4. “Sleep Apnea,” Sleep Foundation, last accessed January 14, 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea
  5. “Sleep apnea,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed January 14, 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20377631
  6. “How Sleep Apnea Affects Blood Pressure.”
  7. “Sleep apnea.”
  8. “Sleep apnea.”
  9. “Sleep apnea.”
  10. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” American Sleep Apnea Association, last accessed January 10, 2022, https://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea/obstructive-sleep-apnea/#

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