The Worrying Link Between Sleep Apnoea and Heart Disease

Do you ever wake up with a headache? Are you a loud snorer who often feels exhausted in the daytime? Watch out: poor-quality sleep and heart disease are connected.

For people who suffer from sleep apnoea, the problem of poor sleep is especially bad. Roughly 40% of the population snore – and what many mistake as simple snoring may actually be something far more serious.

Sleep apnoea occurs when the airway is obstructed or collapses, restricting or stopping the sufferer from being able to breathe properly. Without realising, the person will “wake” up hundreds of times a night, trying to get air back into their lungs.

This means that sufferers often experience poor-quality sleep – and they can also be prone to poor heart health. Sleep apnoea is found in 47% to 83% of people with cardiovascular disease, and 12% to 53% of people who suffer heart failure or a stroke.

So, what’s the link between sleep apnoea and heart disease?

When you constantly stop breathing while you’re asleep, it begins to affect the heart.

It works like this: if your breathing is interrupted, the level of oxygen in your blood drops. The body reacts by releasing a stress hormone – adrenaline. When this keeps happening again and again, your adrenaline levels stay high. And this can lead to high blood pressure.

What can I do about this?

The link between sleep apnoea and heart disease is a worrying one. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep quality and your heart health. Losing weight is a good idea, as excess weight around the throat can contribute to sleep apnoea problems. Cutting down on alcohol and cigarettes will also help.

Some sufferers opt to use CPAP – a bedside machine that supplies a constant stream of air through a face mask. This helps to prevent the airway collapsing or becoming blocked. Another more portable option is an oral device. Similar to a mouth guard, this gently pulls the jaw forward to keep the airway open.

If you suspect you have sleep apnoea, we recommend that you visit your doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to advise which treatment option is best for you.

So, to sum up…

Researchers have estimated that untreated sleep apnoea could raise the risk of dying from heart disease by up to five times. The symptoms of sleep apnoea include: loud snoring, waking up with a dry mouth, and feeling fatigued in the daytime. If you experience some of these, don’t ignore the warning signs – you could end up saving your own life.




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