People with sleep apnoea and hard-to-control high blood pressure may see their blood pressure drop if they start to treat the sleep disorder, according to new research that has been carried out in Europe.
The standard treatment for sleep apnoea, a condition characterized by disrupted breathing during sleep, is either to wear an all night facemask with oxygen supply, called CPAP, or an approved mouthpiece, sometimes called a splint.
This dangerous sleep disorder has been linked to high blood pressure.
Patients included in this study were taking three or more drugs to lower their blood pressure, in addition to having sleep apnoea. Participants who then underwent treatment for 3 months reduced their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) and improved their overall night-time blood pressure, the researchers found.
“The prevalence of sleep apnoea in patients with resistant high blood pressure is very high,” said the lead researcher. “Treatment for this increases the probability of recovering the normal nocturnal blood pressure pattern,” he said.
The European report in question has been published in the December Journal of the American Medical Association.
The CPAP system consists of a pumping unit that pushes air through a tube connected to a mask that fits over the patient’s mouth and nose. The air forced through by the device keeps the airway from closing, and thus allows continuous sleep. The mouthpiece however is much easier to use and is similar to a sports gum-shield – easy and comfortable to wear – and moves the jaw forward slightly during sleep opening the airway in doing so.
Sleep apnoea is a common disorder. The pauses in breathing that patients experience can last from a few seconds to minutes and they can occur 30 times or more an hour. As a result, sleep quality is poor, making sleep apnoea a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.
The researchers state that short term, the findings are encouraging, and now it needs to test for the long-term benefits to see if it is sustained.
“Close to three out of four patients with resistant high blood pressure have been found to have obstructive sleep apnoea, and this sleep apnoea may contribute to the difficulty to control the blood pressure in these patients. Whether these improvements in blood pressure can be sustained in the long term and will translate to improved health outcomes will require additional studies,” he said.
The researchers found that those receiving treatment lowered their 24-hour average blood pressure 3.1 mm Hg more than those not receiving treatment and similar results were achieved for the average diastolic blood pressure.
The difference in systolic pressure wasn’t statistically significant between the two treatment groups, the researchers noted.
The systolic pressure, the top number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The diastolic pressure, the bottom number, measures the pressure in the arteries between beats.