Does sleep apnea cause hypertension?

This question was asked in Lancaster, New York on 11/08/2012.
Is it true that sleep apnea causes high blood pressure?

Doctors Answers (6)

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 11/12/2012

The exam causal mechanism of hypertension is not completely know or understood. The condition of hypertension is certainly exacerbated and made worse by sleep disordered breathing and apnea. The more severe the apnea the more severe the problem. Normally, blood pressure drops while you sleep at night but if you have apnea it doesn't dip down as expected and then goes even higher the next day increasing the risk for cardiac events, arrhythmias and strokes.

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 11/12/2012

Absolutely. The body senses there is a blockage in breathing and releases adrenaline to "wake up the brain" so that muscles of the airway can contract and open the airway...that is good. But this "arousal" is also associated with a spike in blood pressure and an increase in your heart rate when the oxygen levels in your body are low due to the apnea. This puts a huge strain on the heart and can actually induce a cardiac rhythm problem that could be fatal and over time cause hypertensionl. Depending on the number ot times you stop breathing through the night the cardiovascular risk may vary. Often treating sleep apnea treats high blood pressure.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 11/12/2012

Yes, obstructive sleep apnea causes hypertension. The mechanism is related to brain arousals (not awakenings) which are necessary to allow the airway to open; otherwise, you would die for lack of air. During these arousals which last for just a few seconds there is an elevation of blood pressure, an elevation of blood sugar, blood cortisol and heart rate. The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is activated. With repeated arousals the blood pressure eventually remains elevated.

Robert C. Jones, M.D.
Answered on: 11/9/2012

When you are sleeping, usually the blood pressure actually falls during this time. However, if the blood pressure does not fall during the night while you are sleeping, it can increase your risk of dealing with cardiovascular disease, including heart failure and stroke. So, it is so important that your blood pressure gets this break while you are sleeping; however, with people who have sleep apnea, this does not always happen. So, no doubt you are wondering, how does sleep apnea cause hypertension? Well, one of the main side effects that people deal with because of sleep apnea is that their blood pressure does not fall the way that it should at night. Why? Well, it doesn't fall because the body is constantly waking up during the night, which doesn't allow the blood pressure to mellow out the way that it should. When the blood pressure does not fall at night, the risk of heart problems go way up, and if sleep apnea is not properly treated, the risk of having high blood pressure during the day rises as well.

Marjorie Yong, M.D.
Answered on: 11/9/2012

Yes it does. There is a direct correlation between sleep apnea and hypertension.

Faryl K. Hart, DDS
Answered on:

Sleep apnea means your body is starved for oxygen while you are asleep. So, your heart beats harder, trying to pump out oxygen to the body but there just isn’t any oxygen to be had. Next, your heart muscle as to work harder and it gets bigger but not stronger. Then, your heart’s blood pressure increases to try and get more oxygen out of is blood vessels. The cycle continues and your blood pressure keeps rising. When you manage your sleep apnea and get more oxygen into your bloodstream then your blood pressure sometimes can start to go down.