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Can Sleep Apnea Cause You To Be More Prone To Seizures?

Posted on Oct 25, 2016 8:00:00 AM by Jeff Rubel

can-sleep-apnes-cause-you-to.jpgIf you snore, or live with someone who snores, you know what an annoyance it can be. Actually, the annoyance is probably much greater if you’re the partner of someone who snores, and it can really put a dent in your marital bliss. But in some cases, snoring can be more than just a nuisance. It can also be an indicator of a more serious health condition, as in the case of sleep apnea.

To clarify, it’s not actually the sleep apnea itself that poses the risk. But it’s connected with a wide range of other health problems. For starters let’s be clear about what sleep apnea actually is. It’s a serious sleep disorder, which involves a person’s breathing being interrupted while they sleep. Someone with sleep apnea may stop breathing as many as hundreds of time in their sleep. This can result in serious consequences, as the brain and other parts of the body may not receive enough oxygen.

On one level, there are some common side effects. People with sleep apnea will often wake up headaches, or a dry mouth or sore throat, as a result of their irregular breathing patterns. Also common are symptoms related to sleep deprivation, including feeling fatigued all the time, which can cause problems at one’s job, and make driving very dangerous. However, these symptoms are relatively minor compared to other conditions which, for one reason or another, seem to be associated with sleep apnea. Though the reasons are not entirely clear, people who suffer from sleep apnea are also more prone to a number of other dangerous and potentially deadly conditions, including hypertension, strokes, heart failure and other heart conditions, diabetes, depression, and chronic headaches.

It has also been observed that there is a connection between sleep apnea and epileptic seizures. While it doesn’t appear that sleep apnea should be considered a cause of epilepsy, there is certainly a high correlation between the two conditions, with as many as one third of epileptics also suffering from sleep apnea. The sleep apnea episodes seem to have a combination of two effects - hypoxemia, which is a low concentration of oxygen in the blood, and hypercapnia, excessive carbon dioxide in the blood stream. It appears that these factors lower the seizure threshold in patients with epilepsy, making seizures appear more frequently. The cycle may continue, as anti-epileptic drugs may actually exacerbate the sleep apnea by relaxing muscle tone in the upper respiratory system.

There is no question that sleep apnea is much more than a mere nuisance and needs to be taken more seriously than the cartoon trope by which snoring is often portrayed. If you notice any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, see a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis, and to begin treatment as soon as possible.

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