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A lot of the lifestyle changes that are required to treat sleep apnea are very similar to those who have hypertension. What do you need to know?

Sleep apnea is a well-known cause of high blood pressure. To better see how these two are connected, it’s important to analyze sleep apnea in depth.

Sleep apnea: Causes and symptoms

Sleep apnea is considered to be a very severe sleep disorder, because it causes interruptions in breathing while you are asleep. It’s not uncommon for people who suffer from sleep apnea to find themselves waking up feeling tired.

There are three different kinds of sleep apnea:

  • Central sleep apnea means the muscles responsible for breathing are not receiving the correct signals from the brain.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by over-relaxed throat muscles.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome encompasses both of the types listed above.

Central and obstructive sleep apnea share the same signs and symptoms, meaning that it’s harder for doctors to diagnose the specific type.

The symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in falling or staying asleep.
  • Feeling sleepy during the day.
  • Feeling irritated.
  • Dry mouth while sleeping and when waking up.
  • Breathing interruptions,
  • Loud snoring.

Sleep apnea complications

This is where high blood pressure comes into the equation. It is one of the complications that arise from sleep apnea, a medical condition which is often neglected, but poses a great threat to a person’s health. Sleep apnea causes the blood oxygen levels to drop, which in turn increases the blood pressure. This puts a great deal of strain on the cardiovascular system. People who suffer from sleep apnea are very likely to end up having hypertension as well.

Other complications that could arise when dealing with sleep apnea are:

  • Metabolic syndrome, which gathers different problems that are related to a person’s metabolism, starting with high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, and ending up with high blood pressure.
  • Daytime fatigue, as a result of frequent sleep interruptions and a decrease in the quality of sleep. Daytime fatigue can cause a series of personal and professional problems, from the inability to focus at work, irritability, difficulty in concentrating while performing tasks that require a lot of attention (such as driving or cooking), to mood swings that can affect social life, family and friendships.
  • Type 2 diabetes, as studies have revealed that sleep apnea puts you at risk of being insulin resistant.
  • Surgery-related complications, due to the fact that breathing problems make it difficult for people to recover after surgery.

Sleep apnea and hypertension: Diagnosis and treatment

If you are suffering from hypertension caused by sleep apnea, the important thing is to treat them both. The diagnosis of high blood pressure involves monitoring said pressure with a specific device. Your doctor will identify your blood pressure through several readings before determining if you are hypertensive or not.

Hypertension is treated through a healthy lifestyle, but also blood pressure medication. But, as long as sleep apnea is still there, your blood pressure will always be in danger, so diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is a very important step towards solving the problem.

There are sleep specialists which can help diagnose sleep apnea. Overnight monitoring will most likely be required, as sleep specialists will need to perform a nocturnal polysomnography, which requires the body being connected to equipment that tracks activity in the brain, lungs, and heart. It can determine sleeping patterns, limb movements, and your sleep blood oxygen levels.

Some specialists will give their patients tests to perform at home as well, to determine breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate.

Treating sleep apnea is easy if you have a mild form. Just like in the case of hypertension, all that may be required are a series of lifestyle changes. If these fail, then there are several other forms of treatment that doctors or sleep specialists may suggest.

A CPAP machine (which is short for “continuous positive airway pressure”) is a device with a mask that is attached to the face, helping you with your sleep apnea-related problem. The device uses a hose connected to a mask to deliver air pressure while you sleep.

There are people who find it very difficult to get adjusted to sleeping with a face mask, but it’s best to try to accommodate to it because it’s very useful. Sometimes, it’s all a matter of finding a suitable mask, as these are available in different sizes. Instead of interrupting use, consult with a doctor or a sleep specialist to discover new ways of improving your comfort.

There are oral appliances which can be used to keep the throat open. While they are less reliable than a CPAP machine, these devices can help with mild snoring and a less severe form of sleep apnea. A visit to the dentist may be required to adjust such a device, as it works by bringing your jaw forward.

Surgical treatment for sleep apnea

This is the last resort for treating sleep apnea, and will only be performed when all the other methods are successful. Some surgeries for treating sleep apnea include:

  • Tissue shrinkage, which involves diminishing the tissue located in the back of throat and the mouth.
  • Tissue removal, which involves removing the aforementioned tissue altogether.
  • Repositioning of the jaw by moving it forward.
  • Plastic rods implants.
  • Nerve stimulation through the insertion of a stimulator which can control tongue movement.

Conclusion

A lot of the lifestyle changes that are required to treat sleep apnea are very similar to those who have hypertension. For the best results, it’s required to give up alcohol and smoking, but also lose any excess weight you may have. Regular exercises also help with both sleep apnea and hypertension. Adjusting your sleeping position can also be a good idea, as sleeping on the back causes gravity to pull your tongue back into your mouth, blocking the airways.

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