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High Cholesterol Linked to Sleep Disorder


Submitted by J. Todd Gray

Sleep is essential to your overall health. Your ability to stay alert and maintain energy for daily duties is directly affected by your quality of rest. If you’re not getting enough sleep or your quality of sleep is poor, you might be sleep-deprived. Although each person may require a different amount of sleep, studies have proven that getting less sleep than you need is detrimental to your health. In some cases, poor sleep may actually be caused by a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). An astounding 18 million Americans suffer from this condition, and less than 10% are diagnosed according to the National Sleep Foundation.

OSA is often associated with loud snoring, daytime fatigue, morning headaches, weight gain, high blood pressure, acid reflux, and even heart disease (see list for more health risks). Studies are also showing a correlation between untreated OSA and cholesterol.

A German study looked at over 400 patients with varying degrees of OSA and concluded that the more severe the OSA, the lower the HDL (the “good cholesterol;”you want to have higher levels of those) and higher the triglyceride levels (you want those levels to be lower). A second German study followed 86 patients and found that after treatment for OSA, HDL levels rose. In the following year, a Greek study also showed that after OSA patients received treatment, their overall cholesterol lowered, and HDL levels increased.

An older study, but one of the largest, examined the health histories of 6,000 persons and found that persons with OSA tested higher for LDL cholesterol and triglycerides of similar body mass who did not suffer from sleep apnea, according to the report published in the December 1997 issue of “Sleep.”

The combination of untreated OSA and high cholesterol can put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. If you or someone you know suffers from poor sleep, high cholesterol, or any of the symptoms associated with OSA, it is important that he/she consults his/her physician to rule out sleep apnea. Diagnosing sleep apnea can only be done through an overnight sleep study either in a lab, or at your home through a home sleep study. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes such as losing weight, sleeping on your side, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), surgery, or oral appliance therapy.

For more information on oral appliance therapy, contact Dr. Todd Gray at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders, 309-319-6568 or online at The office is located at 2309 E. Empire St., Suite 500 in Bloomington. Dr. Gray is devoted to the management of sleep-related breathing disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea, with oral appliance therapy as well as conservative treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, headaches, facial pain and teeth-grinding. Oral appliance therapy is covered by most medical insurances and Medicare.

Sources Available Upon Request

Signs & Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Morning Headaches/Migraines
  • Snoring
  • Weight Gain or Inability to Lose Weight
  • Acid Reflux
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Depression
  • Severe Anxiety
  • Choking / Gasping Sensation that wakes you up
  • Diabetes
  • Impotence and/or Decreased Sex Drive