Understanding Sleep Apnea Link With Pulmonary Hypertension

Last Updated on 2 years

There’s an interesting connection between sleep health matters and pulmonary hypertension. Of course, sleep health significantly influences the development of pulmonary hypertension (PH).  But to understand this, you first need to understand what pulmonary hypertension means.

Experts define PH or pulmonary hypertension as “a rare lung disease which severely affects the pulmonary arteries.” The arteries regularly deliver oxygen-low blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs. In this way, blood gets replenished (enriched with oxygen) before flowing back into the body to supply your cells, organs, and systems.

However, when PH comes around, these arteries usually become thickened and narrow. The situation forces the heart to work more than it usually does when pumping your blood. Eventually, the pulmonary arteries develop their own hypertension when they are stressed.

Overall, the PH condition can enlarge the heart and weaken its tissues. The condition can cause other complications leading to what is known as heart failure.

What’s the Link Between Sleep Apnea and PH?

Well, experts recognize obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as a significant cause of cardiovascular disease. Experts believe OSA may significantly contribute to the same problem. They point to OSA as the cause of many other issues, including pulmonary vascular disease, hypertension risk, stroke, ischemic heart disease, arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure.

Note that despite increasing evidence pointing to this situation, the matter is still debatable. Also, many risk factors linked to OSA have been identified as risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These factors include age, obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and the male gender.

As a result, experts don’t agree that OSA causes cardiovascular disease by itself.

Understanding How Sleep Affects PH

Consider the following factors:

  • Good Sleep Health

Those who enjoy eight full hours of uninterrupted sleep give the body a perfect chance to heal damages, and the healing usually spreads to the cellular level.

You can only achieve deep sleep during long consolidated sleep. This is when the system releases the human growth hormone (HGH) into your body. The HGH then repairs and recharges your tissues and organs.

Yes, with enough sleep, even a person with PH can manage his symptoms better, preventing them from worsening.

  • Poor Sleep Health

If you don’t get enough sleep at night, your body will lose the opportunity to recharge and repair. Generally, OSA and PH are known to share 2 risk factors- obesity (which can be controlled) and aging (which can’t be controlled).

Note that untreated sleep apnea (and other types of sleep-disordered breathing) can directly contribute to the progression or development of PH.

What Treatments are Available?

Many have asked: What treatments are available?

Well, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has proven its effectiveness in treating heart failure. Also, studies have shown that using CPAP to treat OSA can significantly improve cardiac function, quality of life, and sympathetic activity.

Studies by the Canadian Positive Airway Pressure recently showed that the use of CPAP increased the left ventricular function, improved nocturnal oxygenation, the patient’s functional capacity, and lowered norepinephrine levels.

Overall, patients who had OSA after a nocturnal CPAP treatment also showed significant reductions in pulmonary artery pressure.

What Can You Do?

Essentially, if you suffer from PH, you can do three things to relieve the symptoms:

  • Go for a Sleep Study: This will determine if your PH is linked to untreated or undiagnosed OSA.
  • Use CPAP: As noted, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has proved to be effective in OSA treatment. Further, it has led to a significant reduction of pulmonary artery pressure and improved cardiac health.
  • Weight Loss Program: You can join such a program, particularly if you’re obese (note that obesity is a well known risk factor for OSA and PH)


Do you suffer from sleep apnea and its associated complications? No worry! Follow the tips above for better cardiovascular and general health.

1 thought on “Understanding Sleep Apnea Link With Pulmonary Hypertension”

  1. I have PH, just discovered March of this year, 2022. I started using a CPAP June 24th. I had a follow up echocardiogram September 14th. My lung BP went up from 37 to 46. Why is this? (I’m trying to get cardiologist to answer). But, is this because I have not used the CPAP long enough? I have gained more weight. Needless to say I have joined WeightWatchers.
    Thank you kindly,

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