Did you know that your snoring may be an indicator of a larger problem? A common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is snoring, and if left untreated, OSA can lead to a variety of health concerns — including stroke.
The team at ApneaMed has outlined the connection between stroke and obstructive sleep apnea and the best ways to diagnose and treat it.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes the individual to stop breathing at least ten or more times throughout the night. These cessations in breathing occur when the individual’s soft tissues in their throat collapse, which causes a blockage in their airway. Because of this blockage, they often snore, choke, or gasp while their body tries to reopen their airway.
In many instances, the person suffering from sleep apnea won’t be aware of their issue. They may not realize they stop breathing throughout the night but will experience the side effects and feel unrested during the day — even after getting a whole night’s sleep. Usually, their partner or a household member will notice the signs, first indicated by snoring.
Over time, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can put the individual at a higher risk for a stroke.
What Is a Stroke?
An individual experiences a stroke when the blood supply that carries oxygen to the brain cannot do so, often because of a clot or rupture. This prevents the brain from getting the necessary oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive, which causes brain cells to die. If not promptly treated, the individual may experience significant deficits or even death.
The Link Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Strokes
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common comorbidity in stroke patients. The connection between the two conditions goes both ways — obstructive sleep apnea can occur in a patient for the first time following a stroke, but it can also cause a stroke. While the individual is sleeping, their repeated stops in breathing cause low oxygen levels in their blood and high blood pressure. Over time, untreated obstructive sleep apnea will increase the patient’s risk of hypertension and a heart arrhythmia condition known as atrial fibrillation, both of which are risk factors of strokes.
A concern with obstructive sleep apnea is that strokes can occur while the individual is sleeping. Because of the individual’s snoring and repeated cessations in breathing, the warning signs of a stroke often go undetected until morning — allowing much damage to the patient’s brain in the meantime.
As a result, undergoing treatment for obstructive sleep apnea can reduce the risk of stroke by improving oxygen levels in the blood and allowing blood to flow freely to the brain. While mild cases of sleep apnea can sometimes be treated through lifestyle changes such as weight loss, stopping drinking, and quitting smoking, moderate to severe cases will often need continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to keep the individual’s airways open while they sleep.
Get Tested for Sleep Apnea with ApneaMed
While you may just be a heavy sleeper, you should get tested if you’re experiencing any signs of sleep apnea. Treating your snoring and sleep apnea will not only improve your quality of life but reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, mood disorders, and more. ApneaMed makes it easy to get tested for sleep apnea with a home sleep study that can be self-administered while you sleep comfortably in your bed — saving you both time and money.
The home sleep study is delivered straight to your door, providing you with everything you need to administer it yourself successfully. While you sleep, the device will monitor and record your blood oxygen levels, blood oxygen saturation, breathing and heart rates, and more to gather important information that one of ApneaMed’s board-certified sleep physicians can review.
ApneaMed offers various home sleep tests and in-home breathing equipment to help you treat your obstructive sleep apnea and reduce the risk of stroke. Contact our team to learn more.