Research done over the years at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (UVRMC) and nationwide shows a link between sleep apnea and stroke. Sleep apnea happens when people stop breathing while asleep, or have breath that is too shallow or too deep. Anyone with five or more incidents in an hour while sleeping is considered a medical risk for strokes and other health complications.
According to The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, sleep disordered breathing is an increasingly recognized disorder that is particularly prevalent among stroke patients. Sleep apnea is associated with multiple major stroke risk factors but is also an independent risk factor for stroke. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with poor functional outcome after stroke.
A better understanding of the relationship between sleep apnea and stroke may prompt providers to pursue the early diagnosis and treatment of underlying sleep-disordered breathing to both improve the chance of recovery from stroke in the short term and to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke in the long term.
There are different treatments available but the most effective is a tube and machine called a CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is difficult and challenging to learn how to sleep with your face strapped to a machine, but the reality is for people with sleep apnea it is a matter of life and death.