Sleep Apnea Treatment May Ease High Blood Pressure

woman laying in bed with arm resting on head

If you have high blood pressure, you're probably on a doctor-backed eating and exercise plan to help lower those BP numbers. But did you know your sleep—or lack thereof—may be one of the root causes of your hypertension? If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, choking sensations during sleep and loud snoring (and not to mention a grumpy partner), you may have sleep apnea, which is a major contributor to high blood pressure.

During sleep apnea, patients have repeated lapses in breathing that may range from a few seconds to minutes and occur as much as 30 or more times an hour. Those pauses cut off oxygen to the brain and raise blood pressure, which over time can lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. Luckily, the treatments that help ease sleep apnea may reduce high blood pressure, too.

How sleep apnea treatments help hypertension

A recent analysis looked at over 51 studies to see how continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and mandibular advancement devices (MADs)—two popular sleep apnea treatments—affect blood pressure. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that both treatments reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers in a reading), with CPAP showing a stronger ability to ease systolic blood pressure. In addition to lowering blood pressure, both treatments offer several benefits, from improved quality of sleep to less fatigue and more daily energy.

How CPAP works: For CPAP, patients don a machine-connected-mask that uses mild air pressure to prevent the airways from collapsing during sleep. CPAP is considered the best sleep apnea treatment and is generally effective in treating all kinds of sleep apnea, from mild to severe.

How MADs work: MADs are mouthpieces that pull the jaw forward to help keep the airway open during sleep. And because CPAPs can be difficult to adjust to—some patients never get used to the noise the machine makes or the face mask itself—MADs are considered a good alternative. MADs can help with mild or moderate sleep apnea but may not be the best option for severe sleep apnea.

How to know if you have sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can have serious health consequences, which is why you should tell your doctor if you think you or a loved one has the condition. Look out for these warning signs: 

  • A rise in high blood pressure numbers
  • Problems with memory or concentration
  • Feeling tired when you wake up
  • Exhaustion or falling asleep throughout the day
  • Waking with sore throat or headache
  • Frequent partner complaints about your snoring

Note, though, that sleep apnea treatments may not be enough to control your high blood pressure. Medication is often necessary. Discuss with your doctor the best way to treat both your BP and sleep apnea.

More On

What are the major diseases that concern you?

video

What are the major diseases that concern you?
Chronic diseases like asthma, hypertension, diabetes and COPD are major concerns, says HealthMaker Molly J. Coye, MD, chief innovation officer of the ...
Your High Blood Pressure Prescription, Decoded

article

Your High Blood Pressure Prescription, Decoded
Understanding your medication options can help you stick to your treatment plan.
Can Beet Juice Help Lower My Blood Pressure?

video

Can Beet Juice Help Lower My Blood Pressure?
Beet juice can lower your blood pressure; it's an effective natural alternative to prescription medications and has been shown to have similar results...
Why is hypertension referred to as the "silent killer"?

video

Why is hypertension referred to as the "silent killer"?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a disease of consequences, not symptoms, says Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, director of the NINDS. Here, he explai...
5 most common high blood pressure questions answered - Part 2

video

5 most common high blood pressure questions answered - Part 2
In part 2 of this Ask the Experts video about hypertension, doctors talk about ways to calm hypertension, blood vessel damage and controlling your blo...