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Sleep Apnea and Heart Failure

Constant repeating pauses in breathing during sleep can cause damage to the person’s heart. This is something that often occurs to people with heart disorders and sleep apnea is commonly associated with it.

Sleep apnea and heart failure share similar symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping, night time urination and sudden waking with shortness in breath. Treatment of sleep apnea can help improve heart conditions that may prevent heart failure.

The link between sleep apnea and heart failure

Repeated stops in breathing reduce the supply of oxygen to a person’s heart. The constant lack of oxygen triggers the release of stress hormones that can place a lot of stress on the heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) relatess sleep restriction with inflammation. People with sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea are likely to have heart failures may increase other health conditions such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • glaucoma and dry eyes
  • type 2 diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome
  • kidney disease
  • dementia
  • depression

Heart diseases is the third commonest cause of deaths in Hong Kong and accounting for 13.0% of all deaths in 2020. Medical conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity) and behaviors (such as smoking, eating fatty salty foods, lack of physical activity, excessive consumption of alcohol) may increase the chances of developing heart failure.

Research suggests that the use of CPAP helps reduces the risk of death and hospitalization in people with heart failure and sleep disorder. People who use CPAP regularly show improvements in physical functioning, mood, sleepiness, and pain. Sleep apnea treatment may prevent heart damage by improving cardiac function.


The information above contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.