Can a Sleep Study Detect Heart Problems?

Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022
Can a Sleep Study Detect Heart Problems?
People with heart failure frequently have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea.

Sleep studies are tests that record specific body functions during sleep. These include heart rate, breathing rate, nasal airflow, brain wave activity, eye movement, blood oxygen level, and muscle movements.

What types of cardiovascular problems can I get with obstructive sleep apnea?

If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you may have the following cardiovascular problems:

  • If you have OSA, you may find it more difficult to control your high blood pressure, or you are more likely to have it in the first place.
  • About 30 percent of people with hypertension have OSA. There is a 50 percent probability that if you have OSA, you have high blood pressure.
  • OSA can lead to cardiac rhythm issues, including bradycardia (slow heart rate) and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). Atrial fibrillation is four times more common in people with severe OSA than in those without OSA.
  • If you don't get treated for sleep apnea, managing your atrial fibrillation may become challenging. For example, people with untreated OSA are 25 percent more likely to experience a recurrence of atrial fibrillation after having their condition treated with catheter ablation (a special procedure done to the heart).
  • Coronary artery disease is also more common in people with OSA. When the tiny blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to your heart narrow, it results in coronary artery disease, also known as arterial hardening. Cardiac attacks and other heart problems can result from narrowed coronary arteries.
  • You are two times as likely to get a heart attack in the future as someone who does not have severe OSA if it is left untreated.
  • Additionally, studies report that up to 70 percent of individuals with coronary artery disease who were admitted to hospitals had OSA.
  • OSA may exacerbate any existing heart problems you may have. Apart from that, untreated OSA can cause cardiac failure. Moreover, the probability of developing OSA if you’re having heart failure is common.


Heart Disease: Causes of a Heart Attack See Slideshow

How does obstructive sleep apnea cause heart disease?

People with heart failure frequently have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea.

The pathogenesis is multifactorial including poor tissue oxygenation levels, longer circulation times, and stretched J receptors (special sensory cells) in the alveoli as a result of pulmonary congestion and through a direct effect on the brain centers controlling respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure.

  • It is unclear exactly why people with OSA acquire heart disease. You have frequent breathing pauses brought on by OSA; these pauses result in real-time bouts of respiratory cessation. 
  • You may occasionally get nighttime awakenings from this, but you might not be conscious of them.
  • The amount of oxygen in your blood decreases during these breathing pauses. 
  • The arteries supplying blood to the heart are harmed by the frequent decreases in low oxygen levels during sleep. 
  • Your body signals your heart to pump faster and your blood pressure to increase each time the oxygen level declines. 
  • Heart enlargement is another side effect of severe OSA stress on the heart. 
  • An enlarged heart does not pump as well, and the heart and body get even less oxygen.

Will treating obstructive sleep apnea treat heart disease?

Yes, treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lessen or even eliminate emergent heart issues. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most used method of treating OSA.

  • The CPAP machine pumps air into a mask that is worn tightly over your nose or mouth through a hose. 
  • This air helps keep your airway from closing during sleep. This treats your sleep apnea, stops the drop in blood oxygen levels while you're asleep, and enables you to have a more restful night's sleep.
  • Regularly using a CPAP machine as directed by your doctor while you sleep reduces the strain on your heart. Using a CPAP machine may help you manage your atrial fibrillation. A CPAP machine may help you manage your blood pressure if you have severe sleep apnea and hypertension.
  • Over time, people can grow accustomed to using the CPAP machine. People who use a CPAP machine at night frequently express that it is the best sleep they have experienced in a long time.
  • However, some individuals find it challenging to adjust to sleeping with a CPAP machine. If you are having trouble, consult a sleep specialist to ensure that you are using the proper nasal or full-face mask and setting.
  • There are several compelling arguments in favor of attempting daily CPAP use. CPAP therapy can help you manage your sleep apnea symptoms and prevent or treat the cardiac issues that are frequently severe and life-limiting and are linked to sleep apnea.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022
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