Stroke Susceptibility Affected by Sleep Apnea

According to a recent study conducted at Yale University School of Medicine, people with sleep apnea are more likely to suffer strokes and die in their sleep.  Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked by soft tissue in the mouth or throat.  When the blockage restricts oxygen, bloodflow to the brain decreases and blood pressure elevates.

Normally, the brain regulates bloodflow to meet its metabolic needs through a process called cerebral autoregulation.  The study showed that repeated decreases in bloodflow and spikes in blood pressure, caused by numerous episodes of apnea, reduced the brain’s ability to regulate these functions.

The study also revealed that people with sleep apnea were three times more likely to suffer a stroke than people who slept normally through the night. “After we found that sleep apnea is a risk factor for stroke and death, independent of other risk factors, we hypothesized that there must be something wrong with the regulation of bloodflow to the brain,” stated Dr. Vahid Moshsenin, one of the leading researchers.

During the study, participants were monitored while they slept. Researchers determined that the group suffered from the following conditions:

  • lower cerebral bloodflow velocity
  • significantly lower oxygen levels
  • longer recovery time from dops in blood pressure
  • longer normalization of bloodflow to the brain

CPAP, a device that generates a steady flow of air, can normalize breathing and thus improve cerebral autoregulation to allow a person to obtain a restful night of sleep. I’m Dr. James Stewart, a Livonia dentist, and I treat patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. If you endure excessive sleepiness, contact my Livonia dental office at (734)425-4400 for a consultation.  I treat patients from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Novi, and surrounding areas. Don’t let sleepless nights affect your health.