The Danger of Sleepless Nights: Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the soft tissue in the throat becomes relaxed during sleep. This soft tissue then blocks your airway for seconds, even minutes. That’s seconds or minutes that your body is starved of oxygen.

These moments of blockage result in a struggled gasp for air, which often disturb or wake up the sleeping patient. In severe cases this can happen 30+ times an hour. The result is a sleepy, stressed and irritable morning after.

Connection to Heart Disease

The dangerous part is when it goes beyond grogginess. Severe complications can arise from long-term sleep and oxygen deprivation issues, and a good many of them are problematic for a healthy heart.

Untreated, sleep apnea can result in:

  • An increase in stress
  • A decreased immune system
  • Repetitive fluctuations in oxygen levels
  • Disruption in heart rhythms
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • An increase in sympathetic activity
  • And ultimately, in heart disease

Sleep Apnea ↔ Obesity ↔ Heart Disease

Another interesting, yet problematic, correlation is the one between sleep apnea and obesity, and the link between obesity and heart disease.

Lack of sleep can put a lot of stress on how a person functions both mentally and physically. It can alter your eating habits, your ability to exercise, your self-esteem, and even your personality. As a result, those who suffer long-term, untreated sleep apnea often suffer from obesity as well.  Of course, not all those who suffer from sleep apnea suffer from obesity.

It also works the other way around. Many of those who suffer from obesity also develop sleep apnea due to increased pressure on the esophagus, along with lack of exercise and an increase of health concerns.

The connection between obesity and heart disease is all too well known.


The first step is to consult your doctor (dentist, orthodontist or general practitioner) and ensure that you do have sleep apnea. From there you will be monitored overnight in a sleep study.

One popular treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which is a breathing apparatus you hookup to your nose and mouth before going to sleep. The breathing apparatus ensures that a continued airflow keeps the soft tissue from collapsing, freeing your airway.

In this image you can see how Orthognathic surgery corrected the airway.

Orthognathic Surgery is another option, which has a 90 to 100% success rate. It requires jaw surgery to increase the size of a clear airway and to prevent further collapse. If you want to take your health seriously, don’t neglect healthy sleeping habits. Your heart may depend on it.