Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of tissue in the airway during sleep causing a quick reduction of oxygen to the entire body. This can cause a decrease of blood flow to the brain, and increase in blood pressure within the brain. OSA is a common condition in stroke patients and can be deadly.
Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
- Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
“Sleep apnea can be an after effect of stroke, but can also be the cause of a first time or recurrent stroke. The condition causes low oxygen levels and high blood pressure, both of which can increase the risk of a future stroke.” -National Stroke Foundation.
When you have a stroke while sleeping
A person may have a stroke in the middle of the night and not know for several hours. If more than 3 hours pass from the onset of symptoms, the opportunity to start medication to dissolve blood clots is lost, increasing the chances for permanent damage.
If you think you may have a breathing problem
You might experience several of the above OSA symptoms, or you might have been told from loved ones that you snore loudly or gasp for breath during the night. Don’t take these lightly! Ask your primary care physician to refer you for a sleep study. Treating both snoring and sleep apnea can lead to a greatly reduced risk of stroke, as well as notable improvements in your quality of life, overall health, and general wellbeing for years to come!
Dr. Marianna Kovitch is a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. Dr. Kovitch completed her Doctorate of Dental Medicine from the Medical College of Georgia after earning her Bachelor of Science degree with honors in Chemistry and recognition in research publication in biochemistry from Georgia State University. Dr. Kovitch has been an active board member of the Academy of General Dentistry since 2013 and has been a contributor to the development of dentistry excellence in Georgia.