Relating to Cardiovascular Disease
Sleep Disordered Breathing, i.e. snoring, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea, isn’t simply an annoying habit that causes excessive daytime tiredness and grumpy bed partners. On the contrary, Sleep Disordered Breathing can be a life-threatening health condition. It disturbs not only sleep, but also the entire homeostatic balance of the body. (Homeostasis is the ability of an organism—in this case, the body—to maintain internal equilibrium—balance—by adjusting its physiological processes, such as burning calories, for example.) Sleep Disordered Breathing adversely affects many internal systems of the body.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that more than 910,000 Americans die of Cardiovascular Disease every year. That’s one death every 35 seconds. Although the CDC has determined Cardiovascular Disease is more common among those 65 years of age and older, younger Americans are now afflicted in large numbers as well.
Restful sleep is like a respite for your body. The body doesn’t shut off completely, but while asleep it is allowed to rest from the normal pace at which it must function during the day. The heart needs this well-deserved relaxation. However, just as the body relaxes, so does the airway. If you suffer from Sleep Disordered Breathing, instead of getting a restful sleep, your body is shocked awake every time your airway becomes obstructed.
The rush of adrenalin that the body employs to wake you is unhealthy as well. Similar to the chemical effect of stress (only magnified) it makes your heart beat faster than it should, and taxes its functioning.
In fact, patients with untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea are at increased risk for atrial fibrillation (irregular, usually rapid heart beat) even when they are awake, according to a 2003 article in the journal Circulation.
Rapid heartbeat at night and during the day causes the blood to attempt to circulate faster through the body, causing hypertension (high blood pressure). The National Institutes of Health determined in 2000 that “people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are at special risk for hypertension.” The Journal of the American Medical Association reported “middle-aged and older adults with sleep apnea have a 45 percent higher risk of hypertension than people without the condition.” Resistant hypertension is frequently found in patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
The endothelial lining of the coronary vessels helps regulate circulation of blood cells. It is also affected by Sleep Disordered Breathing, specifically the imbalance in nitric oxide that a lack of oxygen creates. The journal Sleep links the dysfunction of endothelial lining to Cardiovascular Diseases such as atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty material and plaque in the arteries. The result is coronary artery disease.
Lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain is the primary cause of ischemic stroke. If you suffer from Sleep Disordered Breathing, blood flow and oxygen are constantly compromised, increasing the likelihood of a stroke.