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Relationship between Sleep Apnea and Heart Health

Updated: Jul 17



Sleep apnea is possibly a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea. In this condition, the airway becomes blocked, or the muscles that control breathing stop moving.

An unusual breathing pattern or loud snoring often leads to a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Also if you have excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, restless sleep, or trouble staying asleep, or have difficulty concentrating, these could be signs of sleep apnea. However, not all snorers have sleep apnea, and other possible symptoms of it can be caused by a variety of health problems. The surest way to diagnose sleep apnea is with an overnight sleep study conducted in a sleep clinic.

Sleep apnea sufferers may also suffer from poor cardiovascular health. The sleep disorder is found in 47% to 83% of people with cardiovascular disease, 35% of people with high blood pressure, and 12% to 53% of people with heart failure, atrial fibrillation and stroke. It has been estimated that untreated sleep apnea may raise the risk of dying from heart disease by up to five times.

Poor sleep affects the heart

If you suffer from undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea, the condition could damage your heart health. With sleep apnea, the person experiences a pause in breathing that often occurs 5 to 30 times per hour. When the person starts breathing again, a loud snort, or a choking sound often accompanies it. Besides potentially leading to poor-quality slumber and fatigue, sleep apnea can cause serious damage to your heart.

It has been linked with irregular heartbeats, heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes, most likely because sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure. When you stop breathing while you sleep, your heart rate drops, and then your involuntary reflexes make you frighten into a brief minor arousal from sleep, which causes your heart rate to accelerate quickly and makes your blood pressure to rise.

Plus sleep apnea can lead to repeated incidents of lower oxygen levels in the blood, increases in carbon dioxide levels, pressure changes in the chest, and increased inflammation markers in the body, all of which can ruin the functioning of the heart.

Electrocardiographic associations seen with sleep apnea

Several studies have been conducted to determine specific electrocardiographic associations with this disorder, with often differing findings, looking particularly at QT intervals, QRS duration, P wave duration, and T wave alternating patterns.

ECG signal recordings have been found effective and efficient for the diagnosis process. Various models and algorithms have been developed using ECG signal recordings to detect sleep apnea disorder.

In new techniques for sleep apnea classification are being developed for most comfortable and timely detection. Which processes short duration epochs of the electrocardiogram data. ECG signal is the most important and powerful tool that contains the diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases.

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