Researchers say people who have severe sleep apnea were more likely to have silent strokes and small lesions in the brain.
“We found a surprisingly high frequency of sleep apnea in patients with stroke that underlines its clinical relevance as a stroke risk factor,” said Dr. Jessica Kepplinger, who led the study. The findings were recently presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.
“Sleep apnea is widely unrecognized and still neglected,” Kepplinger said in a news release. “Patients who had severe sleep apnea were more likely to have silent strokes and the severity of sleep apnea increased the risk of being disabled at hospital discharge.”
Among the study’s key findings:
- Nine out of 10 patients who had a stroke had sleep apnea.
- Having more than five episodes of sleep apnea in one night was associated with silent strokes.
- More than one-third of patients with brain lesions had severe sleep apnea.
- More than half of silent stroke patients had sleep apnea.
People who suffer from sleep apnea often wake up in the middle of the night because they can’t breathe. They usually snore very loudly. About 50 percent of people who snore loudly have sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. They can stop breathing hundreds of time during the night, which makes them feel exhausted in the morning.
Sleep disorders have been linked to depression and weight gain.
Sources: American Stroke Association; American Academy of Sleep Medicine
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