Sleep Apnea has long been associated with dizziness. However, there may also be a link between sleep apnea, or the treatment for sleep apnea, and the balance disorder of ‘Vertigo’.
Apnea and dizziness – a clear link
Undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea can have devastating effects on the brain and body. Apnea periodically starves the brain of oxygen during the night and apnea sufferers wake feeling tired and light-headed as a result.
Over time, this can cause dizziness and also heart and metabolic problems – the latter increasing the severity and duration of daytime dizzy spells.
Apnea and Vertigo – correlation but no clear link
Dizziness and Vertigo are related in the sense that they are experienced as being similar. However, Vertigo is distinct from dizziness in that it is thought to be exclusively caused by air pressure issues or other problems with the middle and inner ear.
While a higher proportion of apnea sufferers experience both dizziness and vertigo than the rest of the population, it may not due be a direct causal link. It could have to-do with demographics: most apnea sufferers fit into an older age bracket – the same age bracket that reports higher incidence of ear problems and related disorders such as vertigo.
Link between CPAP treatment and Vertigo
However, there may be a case for a direct link between CPAP treatment and Vertigo if the Vertigo is caused by air pressure on the inner ear from the air pressure changes from the CPAP machine. If this is the case, it should resolve after a few months of treatment and with adjustments to the air pressure.
Vertigo may not be caused by apnea, but symptoms may be worsened by apnea – as with other forms of dizziness, by lack of oxygen. In the case of chronic sleep apnea, left untreated for a long time, Vertigo can be brought on or worsened by resulting heart and brain functioning issues as well as generalised fatigue and dizzy spells.