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Treating sleep problems can improve blood pressure in men

Having treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition that disturbs your breathing while you are asleep, can lower your blood pressure, according to the results of early research in men.

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?

blood pressure being taken

If you have sleep apnoea, there are times during the night when you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer. You may wake up with a snorting, choking, or gasping sound. This can disturb your sleep and make you feel very drowsy during the day. You may find it hard to concentrate or remember things, feel tired when you wake up, and feel moody.

We know that you're more likely to have sleep apnoea if you have certain health problems, like being overweight. We don't know if getting treatment for sleep apnoea can have any effect on other health problems.

Researchers looked at a group of 221 men with sleep apnoea who also had high blood pressure and diabetes.

All of the men in the study had a treatment called positive airway pressure within six weeks of being told they had sleep apnoea. People who have this treatment sleep with a mask over their nose, or their mouth and nose, to help them breathe and improve their sleep.

The researchers then measured the men's blood pressure and blood sugar after three, six, nine, and 12 months.

What does the new study say?

Men who had positive airway pressure treatment for sleep apnoea had lower blood pressure readings at every time point at which they were measured.

As a group the reduction in blood pressure was large enough to rule out being due to random chance. But there were quite large differences between individuals' changes in blood pressure and the average change, which suggests the effect of the treatment could vary a lot from one person to another.

There was no effect of treatment on the men's blood sugar levels.

How reliable is the research?

The researchers noted that there were some results missing, for example they didn't have full information for half of the men in the study after nine and 12 months. It's possible that this affects how reliable the results are. The researchers say we need larger and longer studies that follow people with sleep apnoea after they have treatment to be sure the results they found are reliable. As this study was in men with obstructive sleep apnoea, we don't know if the results apply to women or people with other kinds of sleep apnoea.

What does this mean for me?

This study suggests that having a treatment called positive airways pressure for obstructive sleep apnoea could also help you if you have high blood pressure. We know that positive airway pressure is a treatment that can help sleep apnoea, but we can't be sure from this study that it's right for you. So speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

Published on October 12, 2012

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