How snoring and sleep problems can cause heart conditions

Research tells us that snoring, sleep disorders and heart disease are closely linked and one condition can lead to the other. When you sleep, it provides your heart with a chance to slow down, and let breathing and blood pressure drop to lower levels lower than when awake.

Sleep-related disorders such as snoring or sleep apnoea are very common in society today and can have a seriously adverse effect on health and well being – both physical and mental. It has an effect on quality of life, and even safety. To stay in good health and replenish important energy levels it is vital to get the right amount of quality restorative sleep. This plays an important role in strengthening the immune system, supporting healthy growth and development, and even sustaining proper brain function.

Numerous research studies underline the very close relationship that exists between sleep disorders and heart disease; they are totally inter-related and one leads to the other.

The heart, although quite a small organ, has incredible importance, as we all know. Despite it being approximately the same size as a clenched fist, it has to do the work of something that one would believe should be much larger. During the average day, it is estimated that the heart pumps almost 2,000 gallons of blood around the body; truly a most vital organ that does a vast amount of work for us. It is because of this that it can be strained if not looked after well.

Sleep is the time when the heart rests and recovers. During that time breathing and blood pressure fall to lower levels and allow the heart to regain its strength.

middle aged woman having heart attack

Major health problems can therefore occur if good, restorative, regular sleep time is not achieved and as a result this can lead to as number of heart-related conditions including:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Chest pain.
  • Hardening of the arteries.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Congestive heart defects.

Research by all leading organisations and hospitals show that habitual loud snorers have a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems, when they are compared to those who hardly or never snore at all. The soft tissue in the neck, relaxing and blocking the airway, causes snoring so that the air has to be forced through the narrowed passage. As our muscles get weaker with age, the condition is more prevalent, and has the result of cutting down on the oxygen supply that is being provided. This is aggravated by other factors such as being overweight, consumption of alcohol, certain medications such as sedatives, and smoking.

If you suffer from this type of sleep disorder it’s also likely that you’ll feel sleepy during the day, reducing concentration, and bringing the risk of falling asleep while driving or working. More and more road accidents are caused because of this and recent AA estimates place it as high as 20% when fatalities are involved. Treatment in one form or another is therefore vital and the problem must not be ignored.

Medical recommendations for sleep disorders may include one or several of the following:

  • Losing excess weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Cutting out alcohol
  • Avoiding sleeping pills

In addition more thorough treatment may be suggested that can be put in place immediately as most of the items above are difficult to achieve for some people, and take time. Options include:

  • Surgery on the upper airway to remove tissue – if necessary or appropriate
  • Using a pressurised mask and air tank throughout the night – this is called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and allows air to be forced through the airway
  • Using a simple mouth guard that slightly repositions the lower jaw and opens the airway. This is similar to a sports gum shield and often the most popular way due to simplicity.

Bear in mind that early treatment can help you recover from your sleep disorder and reduce the risk of other serious health issues.

By John Redfern