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Sleep Disorders Linked to High Blood Pressure?

A good diet, proper exercise, and relaxation techniques can keep your blood pressure at a normal, healthy level. But there’s something else that can increase it without you even knowing about it: sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the patient stops breathing many times while sleeping. It occurs in the deepest and most restful phase of sleep, the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. Your body basically “forgets” to breathe for 10 or 15 seconds, then reacts to the sudden lack of oxygen by jolting your respiratory system back into action. When this happens, it jars your sleeping, too, and you have to start over in the “light sleep” phrase. This constant interruption to the deep, restful REM sleep means that when you wake up in the morning, you don’t feel like you got enough sleep — because you didn’t! Not high-quality, restorative sleep, anyway.

So what’s the connection between sleep apnea and hypertension? It long ago passed the common sense test — obviously, brief periods of stressful near-asphyxiation can’t be GOOD for your heart. And in recent years, studies have begun to show a strong, provable, medical link between the two as well. Sleep apnea puts undue stress on the blood vessels. During an apnea incident, the sudden drop in oxygen levels forces your heart to work overtime to move the remaining oxygen around your system. This means an increased heart rate as well as increased blood pressure.

What’s worse, this is happening at night, when you’re asleep — the time when your body is supposed to be relaxing and repairing itself. If your blood pressure is constantly spiking during the night when you’re at rest, it’s not likely to settle down to a normal level during the day, when you’re actually up and around and exerting yourself. If your heart can’t rest when you’re asleep, when can it?

The dangers of high blood pressure are well known. But even without that, sleep apnea can be harmful in and of itself. Not getting enough restful sleep means being drowsy during the day, which can lead to poor job performance and falling asleep while driving. It leads to irritability, depression, headaches, and impotence, too. The additional strain on your heart during the night can also lead to strokes and heart attacks.

It’s estimated that 15 million Americans have sleep apnea, 75 percent of them men and 90 percent of them undiagnosed and untreated. Since the subject usually doesn’t know that he’s almost waking up constantly during the night, he may not realize he has sleep apnea. Some indications are daytime drowsiness, foggy memory, difficulty concentrating, waking up with headaches, sore throats or extremely dry mouth, and excessive sweating while sleeping. Most sleep apnea patients snore, too, and your bedmate can tell you if your snoring is irregular or if it sounds like you sometimes stop breathing altogether.

If you suspect you may suffer from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about being tested at a sleep research facility. Sleep apnea is treatable, and doing so is vital to your overall health and well-being. Hypertension is just one of the many problems it can cause.

For more information about the causes of and treatment for high blood pressure please Click Here.


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