How does sleep apnea affect the heart?

1 Answer
Mar 12, 2016

Sleep apnea is a kind of dyssomia where pauses of breathing or shallow breathing occur during the sleep.


Sleep apnea is a kind dyssomia meaning that the patient will have trouble in maintaining sleep or falling asleep. It is characterized by shallow breathing or pauses of breathing. Each pause (called Apnea) lasts for about a few seconds to several minutes. When breathing is paused, carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream. Chemo receptors in the blood stream note the high carbon dioxide levels. The brain is signaled to wake the person sleeping and breathe in air. Breathing normally will restore oxygen levels and the person will fall asleep again.

With sleep apnea there is a risk of developing Hypertension, Heart Failure, Stroke etc. During sleep, as the Oxygen level falls, the chemo- receptors recognize this and the brain instructs the blood vessels to tighten up and increase the blood flow to itself and to the heart. This makes the heart rate rise steadily. These complications tend to carry over themselves during the day even when the patient is awake and breathing normally. This leads to the problems mentioned above.