Stroke and Sleep Apnea

How have you been sleeping lately? Do you feel well rested when you wake up in the morning? If not, and you are a survivor of stroke, one possible cause could be sleep apnea, which is a very common condition in both the general population and especially in survivors of stroke.

Introduction (0:00 - 0:42)

Keeping your brain as healthy as possible after you’ve had a stroke is important and obtaining quality sleep plays a huge role in maintaining brain health. Unfortunately, untreated sleep apnea significantly lowers your quality of sleep, increases the risk of having a stroke. For those who have already had a stroke, the risk of a recurrent stroke is even greater.

This video covers some general information about sleep apnea, including risk factors, symptoms, and common treatments. If you have any concerns after viewing this information, please reach out to your doctor.

What is Sleep Apnea? (0:43 - 3:19)

Sleep apnea is a condition that results in abnormal breathing because of changes in a person’s airflow that occurs while they are asleep, resulting in multiple extended pauses in breath when they sleep. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s supply of oxygen, leading to potentially serious health consequences.

This video discusses the most common type of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. When this happens, your brain can tell something is wrong and will momentarily wake you up enough so that you can reopen your airway and resume breathing. Most of the time, these interruptions to your sleep are so brief that you don’t remember them happening. This sequence of events can happen many times each hour, all night long, preventing you from achieving the restorative sleep that your body needs to function properly.

Risk Factors (3:20 - 4:05)

Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain factors can put an individual at increased risk of developing it, including excess weight, high blood pressure, chronic nasal congestion, smoking, diabetes, and being male. A few additional risk factors that are important to consider include a narrowed airway, a family history of sleep apnea, and having asthma.

Screening for Sleep Apnea (4:36 - 7:26)

This graphic represents the STOP-BANG questionnaire, which is a common tool used to determine if sleep apnea may be a concern. Each letter in “STOP-BANG” stands for a word or phrase, each of which has a yes or no question associated with it (discussed in the video). Keep track of the number of answers for which your answer is “yes.” You may have to ask others in your household about their observations.

What to Expect (7:27 - 8:26)

If you suspect that sleep apnea might be an issue for you and you do not already have a sleep specialist, make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your concerns. If your doctor also has concerns, they will typically make a referral for you to see a sleep specialist who will direct any further courses of action, including a referral for a sleep study and potential treatment options.

CPAP Therapy (8:27 - 10:20)

A CPAP machine works by delivering air through a mask that fits onto your face. This reduces the number of times you stop breathing when you sleep and allows your brain to receive enough oxygen throughout the night. This leads to higher quality sleep and helps to prevent another stroke from occurring.

It is very important for individuals with sleep apnea to be consistent in using their CPAP machine every night. This is especially important for individuals who are also survivors of stroke, as untreated sleep apnea can dramatically increase the chances of having another stroke.

In Conclusion (10:21 - 11:15)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is considered a serious medical condition, especially for survivors of stroke. If you think you may have OSA, contact your doctor and if you have already been diagnosed, make sure you are using your CPAP machine consistently! If you have any issues with your mask or the machine, make sure you contact your doctor or medical supply company so that you can work together to find a solution that will allow you to continue treating your sleep apnea.