Now accepting telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

Sleep Apnea


Nephrology & Internal Medicine located in Houston, TX serving the greater Katy, Channelview, Pearland, Montrose, and Spring areas

Find out how you can step into the day with better focus and better energy for the day ahead. For more information about obstructive sleep apnea, sleep medicine, or sleep problems, speak to your Kidney360 specialist.

Sleep Apnea: How it Affects Kidney Function

Everybody understands the link between a good night's sleep and your overall health. After all, sleep is essential to many body functions, from renewing your energy to maintaining a strong immune response. Fatigue, lack of concentration, high-stress levels, increased cravings, and slow recovery are some of the most commonly cited problems when you experience irregular sleep. But have you ever considered how sleep disorders, and especially sleep apnea, can be linked to chronic kidney disease? Here we explain how poor sleep quality can affect your kidney function. 



Findings on obstructive sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease

Recent medical studies have demonstrated that obstructive sleep apnea is predominant among patients with chronic kidney disease. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to the intermittent closure of the upper airway when you sleep, which happens when the throat muscles relax. As a result, the individual can experience periods of insomnia — aka difficulties staying asleep —, loud snoring, and dry mouth or sore throat when waking up. 

Researchers find that the correlation between sleep apnea and kidney failure is bi-directional, which means that each condition can contribute to the development of the other. 

On the one hand, obstructive sleep apnea leads to serious health risks, such as hypertension, hypoxia, and sympathetic nervous system activity disorders, which can dramatically contribute to the deterioration of kidney health and function. 

But on the other hand, individuals with end-stage kidney disease tend to experience severe sleep apnea, which can be reduced through kidney replacement therapy and treatment. 

How does sleep apnea impact kidney health?

Researchers explain that irregular sleep patterns linked to insomnia and sleep apnea affect oxygen levels, creating intermittent oxygen transport to the organ at night. Many theorize that it could activate high blood pressure as a way to compensate for oxygen disparities. High blood pressure causes damage to the kidneys, making individuals more susceptible to chronic kidney disease.

However, researchers still need to demonstrate the exact link between poor sleep quality and kidney health. A medical hypothesis that is currently under observation and experimentation by the National Kidney Foundation suggests that melatonin level, the sleep hormone, could influence nocturnal kidney functions and the overall ability of the kidney to filter the blood. 

Yet, while the research has yet to determine the complex relationship between sleep and kidney health, it makes no doubt that those with irregular sleep are more at risk of kidney failure. 

Is poor sleep quality a driving factor of chronic kidney disease?

We also know that lifestyle choices and existing health conditions can increase the risk of kidney function disorders, such as:

  • Overweight or obese individuals
  • Presence of heart disease
  • Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
  • High blood pressure
  • Inherited kidney diseases
  • Recurrent kidney infection
  • Long-lasting obstruction of the urinary tract
  • Smoking
  • Kidney-damaging medication
  • High-risk ethnicity

Sleep apnea can be one of many existing risk factors for chronic kidney disease. It would be unrealistic to presume that fragmented sleep is a definite trigger for kidney malfunction. But as disorders in both sleep and kidney function are often seen hand-in-hand, it would be unwise to ignore their relationship.

We strongly recommend that kidney disease patients consult a sleep specialist to help manage and reduce the impact of insomnia and sleep disorders on their kidney health. Feel free to reach out if you wish to find out more about renal health for sleep apnea sufferers.