Obstructive sleep apnoea linked to increased risk of stroke and cancer

Many recent medical studies conducted worldwide, and connected with sleep, have reached very similar conclusions; that regularly disturbed or ‘fragmented’ sleep puts people at greater risk of stroke, impaired thinking and memory, and even cancer.

Apnoea and stroke a concern

This is particularly so in those over 60 where those who had fragmented sleep were more likely to have hardened blood vessels, or oxygen starved tissue in the brain. This has been proved to increase the risk of developing arteriosclerosis, a potentially serious condition where the arteries become clogged up by fatty substances known as plaques.

Results showed that amongst the many hundreds of individuals monitored, that 29% had already experienced a stroke, and 61% had signs of moderate to severe damage to blood vessels in the brain.

Researchers found that greater sleep fragmentation was associated with 27 per cent higher odds of having severe arteriosclerosis. Moreover, for each additional two arousals during one hour of sleep, researchers reported a 30 per cent increase in the odds that subjects had visible signs of oxygen deprivation in their brain.Stroke

A primary cause of disturbed sleep is obstructive sleep apnoea, usually called OSA, where the individual suffers from disturbed sleep, but often do not realize that they’re waking many times, and even gasping for breath. Mild to moderate OSA is very common, and often ignored and untreated. Severe OSA is critical for those who are suffering and must be treated.

One of the main studies was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine – a long study that was carried out over a twenty year period.

Results of the study show that people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea were four times more likely to die early, nearly four times more likely to have a stroke, three times more likely to die from cancer, and 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer. These figures are after the results were adjusted for potential confounding factors such as body mass index, smoking status, total cholesterol and blood pressure.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is dangerous and needs urgent treatment.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) comments extensively on this and recommends key areas of treatment that will help manage the symptoms of OSA and which may occasionally correct the problem.  This includes lifestyle changes but they add that often, additional treatment beyond lifestyle changes is needed for moderate to severe OSA.

Mild to moderate sleep apnoea can be treated by simply using a mandibular adjustment device – often called a splint, oral appliance, or simply a mouthpiece. These are recommended strongly by the BLF. This device, also called an oral device, is worn over your teeth as you sleep. It brings your lower jaw forward, helping to keep your airway open. This treatment can be used without prescription if you have mild to moderate OSA and will help to control it, perhaps even correcting any harm that has been done previously.

The BLF also discuss surgery and CPAP treatment for extremely severe cases, but this can be avoided if a specially made, highly efficient mouthpiece is worn early enough.

Papworth Hospital is a major heart and lung hospital in Cambridgeshire, England. It is the UK’s largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital, and the country’s main heart and lung transplant centre, and was home to the first successful heart transplant in the UK and one of the world’s first beating-heart transplants. As a result of their extensive research into the success of custom-made oral appliances, they made two key recommendations in 2014 that were published in The Lancet:stroke

  • SleepPro Custom should be offered as first line treatment for mild OSA and any form of snoring
  • SleepPro Custom should be offered as an alternative to CPAP for the treatment of moderate OSA

Other NHS approved appliances are available for snoring at any level.
The details of these studies are available to read on the SleepPro website

Contact [email protected] for further information

John Redfern