Sleep Apnea Compromises Blood Pressure

According to a 2016 study by the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus, sleep apnea has an immediate effect on blood pressure. The study concludes that even a single sleep apnea incident impacts the human body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. Sleep apnea repeatedly stops and starts breathing during sleep. This often results in frequent periods of decreased oxygen levels. This is called intermittent hypoxia.

Man holding CPAP breathing apparatus

UBC’s Glen Foster, seen holding breathing apparatus in his lab, is researching the health impacts of sleep apnea. Credit: UBC

The study suggests that a single incident of sleep apnea effects the ability to regulate blood pressure. In the study, researchers found that just six hours of fluctuating levels of oxygen can deteriorate the circulatory system.

“While it is well established that sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure, our study shows this condition has an impact on the cardiovascular system that can begin within a single day,” says Glen Foster, an assistant professor of health and exercise science. “After just six hours of fluctuating oxygen levels, similar to what happens with sleep apnea, the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure is impaired.

“These changes occurred almost immediately in healthy young adults who were not experiencing the cumulative effects years of sleep apnea could bring about.”

Study Shows Impacts to Vascular Health

Foster examined the impacts on the cardiovascular system using healthy young adults.

The study found that sleep apnea compromised the function of a person’s baroreceptors — biological sensors that regulate blood pressure. It also found damaging blood flow patterns in the legs, which over time could impact vascular health.

“These findings suggest that interventions for people suffering sleep apnea should occur as soon as the condition is diagnosed,” adds Foster.

If you or your loved one has sleep apnea, call Dr. Greenbaum today to find out how we can help.

Foster’s research was recently published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Source: University of British Columbia Okanagan campus. “Sleep apnea immediately compromises blood pressure.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2016. <>.