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Ask the Expert: Sleep apnea

 Amit Biswas, M.D.
Amit Biswas, M.D.​
Neurologist and sleep medicine specialist
Sees patients at Marshfield Clinic Wausau and Weston Centers.

​​Question: If I have sleep apnea, am I more at risk for a stroke?​

People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which affects about four percent of the population, are certainly more at risk for a stroke.

Sleep apnea occurs when the airway in the throat narrows or becomes obstructed during sleep, preventing air from getting into the lungs.

This causes loud snoring, snorts and labored breathing that may bother others trying to sleep, and can cause severe daytime drowsiness.

Research has also shown a clear connection between obstructive sleep apnea and strokes.

When a person’s breathing is interrupted 15 or more times per hour, it reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.

That can trigger a number of responses, such as activating the body’s blood clotting mechanism.

When a clot forms in a vessel leading to the brain, it causes a stroke.

Sleep apnea also can lead to high blood pressure, one of the leading causes of stroke.

People who live alone may not even be aware they have sleep apnea.

For them, symptoms to watch for are abnormal daytime sleepiness and poor concentration, often with memory difficulties, morning headaches and frequent waking up during the night.

We can treat most cases of obstructive sleep apnea, so seek care if you suspect you may have this condition.​

​​​​Marshfield Clinic provides neurologicalservices in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location.