Iowa Sleep Blog

How Treating Sleep Disorders Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease

Friday, May 30, 2014

If your family has a history of heart disease, it’s more important than ever to be aware of sleep disorders and their side effects.

Although the connection between sleep disorders and heart conditions is not fully defined, there is a relationship between the two. Sleep disorders have been associated with heart conditions such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias and pulmonary hypertension.

Why does this relationship exist? Good question. Iowa Sleep’s Dr. Stephen Grant explains:

When your body is at rest, your heart slows down. If your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen throughout the night, it won’t function properly. The relationship works both ways: heart conditions can cause sleep disorders, and vice versa.

 In fact, studies have shown that 50 percent of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients have high blood pressure, and 30 percent of people with high blood pressure also have OSA. Further, nearly 40 percent of people with congestive heart failure also suffer from central sleep apnea (CSA), according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The good news is that treating your sleep disorders can help manage existing heart problems and reduce the risk of developing heart problems. For example, individuals who use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) system to treat their OSA report lower blood pressure both at night and during the day, according the National Sleep Foundation.

Symptoms of breathing-related sleep disorders include:


  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or choking while sleeping
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating, irritability, depression
  • Morning headaches


  • Difficulty breathing while lying flat
  • Restless sleep
  • Waking up gasping or short of breath
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Snoring may be absent

If you’ve experienced one of these symptoms, and especially if you also have a family history of heart conditions, contact your doctor or Iowa Sleep.  It’s important to discuss the possibility that you may have a sleep disorder and learn what treatment options are available to help improve your sleep and reduce your risk of heart disease.