5 ways sleep apnea affects the heart, heart rate, & blood pressure

No one likes sleep apnea. This condition can wreak havoc on your sleeping schedule and keep you up through the night. As a result, you wake up all tired, groggy, and irritated every day. To make matters worse, your snoring seems to get on your spouse’s nerves. But did you know there is much more to this medical condition than meets the eye? Namely, it leads to several cardiovascular complications.


In this article, we’ll show you 5 ways sleep apnea affects the heart, heart rate, and blood pressure. The most common way sleep apnea affects the heart, heart rates, & blood pressure is the low oxygen levels you get from the condition.

Ways sleep apnea affects the heart, heart rate, & blood pressure.

Recent studies suggest that sleep apnea may lead to the development of cardiovascular complications. According to the research, over half of the population suffering from heart issues also have sleep apnea. Experts also claim that people with both conditions are much more susceptible to heart failure. Cardiac death is also more common for people with this condition at night, which is very rare in healthy individuals.

Though we don’t yet fully know what makes this condition so harmful, it’s likely tied to increased heart rate and low oxygen levels. The 5 most common ways sleep apnea affects the heart, heart rate, & blood pressure are:

  • Low oxygen levels
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Unstable heart rate
  • High heart rate
  • Bradycardia

1. Low oxygen levels

Your oxygen levels should normally be above 95%. Because this condition affects breathing, it will drastically reduce your oxygen saturation. It, in turn, makes you prone to the following:

Studies show it can cause blood oxygen to drop as low as 78%, possibly even below 60%. Such low levels can cause organ failure and possibly even death. You can track your saturation with an oximeter. If your readings as this low, seek medical attention immediately.

Your heart and brain need more oxygen than other organs. Without it, they won’t function properly.

2. Increased blood pressure

As your oxygen levels drop, your body will try to counteract this by increasing your blood pressure. Better blood flow distributes what little oxygen you have to all your tissues. But as your vessel constrict, your blood pressure might surge as high as 240/130. Over time, your nervous system will adapt to these changes. As a result, your blood pressure will remain increased while awake.

It can increase your risk of cardiac arrest. High blood pressure is also associated with poor heart health, meaning you are at risk of developing coronary diseases.

3. Unstable heart rate

Also known as bradycardia, low heart rate also stems from this condition. Sleep apnea may push your beats per minute dangerously low, increasing your risk of cardiac arrest. Decreased heart rate further lowers your oxygen levels since your heart doesn’t work as fast.

On the other hand, it can also elevate it. When your breathing becomes too slow, your rate will increase. It may even rise above the recommended 120 BPM, which is dangerous for your blood vessels. If it goes on for too long, this arrhythmia may persist even during the day.

4. High heart rate when sleeping

Research suggests that there is a connection between sleep apnea and heart palpitations, especially at night. Though this condition generally lowers the rate, it can also lead to brief bursts of increased heart rate. Healthy adults should have rates between 60 to 100 beats per minute. If it rises above 100 BPM, even briefly, you should seek medical attention. Left unchecked, such a high rate may lead to cardiac arrest or stroke.

5. Bradycardia and sleep apnea

Studies suggest that sleep apnea may cause bradycardia, a dangerously low heart rate. Healthy adults have heart rates of between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The exact scope may differ depending on your medical conditions and physical activity levels. But as a rule of thumb, you have bradycardia if your heart rate falls below 60 beats per minute.

Sleep apnea often causes this condition at night. It further lowers your oxygen levels and disrupts your sleeping patterns. During the day, you may feel irritated and fatigued. You might also wake up in the morning with a migraine and dry mouth.

Left unchecked, this type of arrhythmia may lead to permanent brain damage.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a health condition that affects breathing. People with this affliction periodically stop breathing at night, which leads to low oxygen levels. The condition can be very dangerous because it leads to other complications as time goes on. Left unchecked, it may even increase your risk of a heart attack.

Sleep apnea comes in three types. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea. As the name suggests, it develops when your upper airway becomes obstructed. It usually involves the upper airway becoming too narrow to transport air efficiently. Obesity, large tonsils, and hormone abilities all increase your risk of developing this condition.

The less common type is central sleep apnea. Breathing is something we all do subconsciously, thanks to our brains. But we develop this condition when it fails to send the signal to breathe to our muscles.

The third and rarest type is complex sleep apnea syndrome. It is a combination of both previous types.

How can I tell if I have sleep apnea?

Though only your doctor can fully diagnose this issue, sleep apnea manifests via several symptoms. If you observe most or all these symptoms, there’s a strong chance you have this condition. Most of them are related to your breathing and the low oxygen levels that result from it.

Here are the most common symptoms of sleep apnea:


Snoring occurs when your airway becomes obstructed while you sleep. However, snoring might not necessarily point to this condition. But if other people can hear you snore over the walls, it’s certainly an option to consider.

Irregular breathing

The main symptom of this condition is irregular breathing. Unfortunately, you won’t notice this while you sleep. However, your spouse can help you detect this if you have one. You might also frequently gasp for air during the night.


Poor breathing can suffocate you, prompting you to wake up several times at night. As a result, you might not be getting enough rest.

Constant fatigue and lack of focus

When you don’t breathe properly, your oxygen levels will drop. However, every organ in your body needs oxygen to create energy. As a result, people with sleep apnea don’t feel rested after sleeping. You might suffer from this condition if you feel tired all the time during the day.

Your oxygen needs the brain much more than any other organ. Thus, your focus will worsen too. The fatigue may also make you feel irritated all the time for no reason.

Sleep apnea heart rate chart

This condition can both increase and decrease your rate. Adults should typically have readings of 60 to 100 beats per minute. These should be the same during the day and night. However, physically active individuals might have heartbeats as low as 50 BPM. It is still considered normal.

Any fluctuations are otherwise considered abnormal. If your readings are higher or lower than these standard values, you may need a CPAP machine to handle this complication. Consult your doctor to determine if this is the right treatment for you.

What is CPAP?

cpap machine

Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) is the most common treatment option for patients. These machines expand airway passages by applying increased pressure. Thus, they can increase the overall quality of sleep by preventing their collapse.

CPAP machines are made of three key parts:

  • the body
  • tube
  • and mask

The mask can cover both your mouth and nose or just your nose. The body contains a motor that pumps the air in the tube, which connects both these parts.

While CPAP can work wonders for sleep apnea, it takes a while for the results to show. Patients often don’t notice any improvements until several months have passed.

Does CPAP lower heart rate?

Since the CPAP machines correct your breathing and can lower your daytime heart rate. CPAP prevents your airway from collapsing, ensuring all your tissues become properly oxygenated. It can counteract the condition’s side effects, such as high blood pressure, increased daytime heart rate, and low oxygen levels. Thus, CPAP ultimately lowers your risk of heart failure and coronary diseases.

Keep in mind that these benefits take about two weeks to manifest. Some patients don’t observe any improvements for even two months.


As we tested the GBRIBOO CPAP machine, we found there were tons of features we loved. We loved how it came with overnight delivery.

Controller TypeButton Control
Item Weight7.5 Pounds
Power SourceCorded Electric


  • We felt it was easy to use even without the help of a doctor.
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Heart rate above 120 while sleeping

Though your heart rate can fluctuate during sleep, it shouldn’t rise above 100 beats per minute. Anything higher than that is a reason for concern. You should seek medical attention immediately if your sleeping heart rate is above 120 BPM.

Sleep apnea can increase your heart rate while you sleep, resulting in poor oxygenation. However, this can take its toll on your heart. Apart from heart-related diseases, it also increases your risk of cardiac arrest and stroke.


Can Fitbit detect sleep apnea?

While Fitbit is great for monitoring your sleep, it can’t track this condition effectively right now. However, Fitbit devices with SpO2 (oxygen saturation) monitors can help you notice sleep apnea. Remember that they aren’t FDA-approved yet, so don’t rely on them too much.

Does sleep apnea go away?

As much as we’d like to tell you it does, this condition rarely disappears on its own. However, you can treat the symptoms. Apart from the CPAP machine, you can also change your lifestyle. Obesity can narrow your airway, which creates this condition. Losing weight can thus help you combat.

Other treatment options include practicing breathing techniques that improve your oxygen levels. Moreover, it may also be caused by your allergies. Taking allergy medication may help as well, especially during spring.

Lastly, certain jaw surgeries may remove this issue altogether.

How common is sleep apnea?

Statistics show this condition affects about 5% to 10% of the world’s population. Men are more prone to develop it than women. Its frequency also increases with age.

Other risk factors include the following:

  • alcohol and drug use
  • smoking
  • allergies
  • and obesity.


To sum up, sleep apnea can lead to several cardiovascular issues. It is because it decreases your oxygen levels. Without enough oxygen, your body will try to compensate for this deficit by increasing your blood pressure. High blood pressure apples more stress on your heart and vessel, making you prone to heart attack and stroke. You may also develop arrhythmia.

Studies show that patients with this condition are much more likely to die from cardiovascular incidents.

Luckily, you can treat it with CPAP. This machine unclogs your airway, restoring your oxygen levels to normal. Over time, your cardiovascular issues should disappear as well. Changing your lifestyle can also help you combat this condition.