The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Stroke

January 24, 2021
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus

According to the CDC, an estimated 795,000 people have strokes annually. Of that 795k, 610,000 are first-time strokes, with an estimated 185,000 strokes being repeat strokes. In fact, the CDC also estimates that one in four strokes occur in people who have already had strokes in the past.

Strokes occur when a singular blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or becomes blocked by a clot. Here in America, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds. You may recognize that you are having a stroke if you experience a sudden loss of balance, loss of vision, drooping face, weakness in the arms, and speech difficulty.

In addition to the above side effects of stroke, strokes can cause permanent damage to the body, including partial paralysis and speech impairment. It can also cause sleep issues, such as restless leg syndrome at night, insomnia, uncontrollable leg movements, and even sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is categorized as a sleep disorder where the patient wakes repeatedly throughout the night, having trouble breathing as they sleep. This breathing trouble causes them to stop and start breathing and wake repeatedly without realizing it.

Because of the close relationship between sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and stroke, researchers recently examined the link between the disorders and made some recommendations that may benefit both conditions.

For those who have sleep apnea and have or have not suffered a stroke, researchers recommend treating sleep apnea in an effort to reduce the likelihood of having a repeat or first-time stroke.

There are several ways to treat sleep apnea in both stroke and non-stroke patients alike. These include the traditional continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and the use of a sleep orthotic. CPAP therapy uses a machine that blows a steady stream of air into the airway, propping it open and allowing the user to breathe as they sleep. Sleep orthotics are similar in that they prop the airway open, but they use an orthotic that merely positions the airway open without the use of air or machinery. Most people find sleep orthotics more comfortable and are more likely to use them for this reason.

If you are interested in learning more about sleep orthotics, please speak to Dr. Mingus today.