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Heart Health

Should you be tested for sleep apnea?

This sleep-disrupting disorder is common but often unrecognized in people with heart disease.

May 1, 2023

photo of a man snoring as he sleeps

Getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis is essential for cardiovascular health. That means everyone — especially people with heart problems — should address any issues that keep them from getting at least seven hours of restorative sleep every night. One common problem is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition marked by brief pauses in breathing, often triggering loud snoring, grunts, gasps, and choking noises.

These repeated breathing disruptions cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise, putting stress on your heart and circulation. "Somewhere between 40% and 80% of people with cardiovascular disease may have sleep apnea," says Dr. Sogol Javaheri, a sleep specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. Yet sleep apnea frequently goes undetected and untreated. Why?

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss

About the Reviewer

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

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As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Snoring and Sleep Apnea

This Harvard Medical School guide explains the physical traits and lifestyle habits that contribute to both snoring and sleep apnea. It describes simple things you can do to prevent snoring and offers advice on devices and procedures that may help treat stubborn cases. You’ll also learn whether you should be checked for sleep apnea—and what that testing entails. In addition, you'll receive details and advice about using positive airway pressure (PAP), the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea, as well as several other therapies.

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