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Stroke Symptoms & Sleep Disorders, Is There A Link?

As we celebrate the beauty of May with Graduations, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day, we ask that you remember that none of these events will be possible to experience if your health is not functioning properly so that you can live life to the fullest. Therefore, we want to remind you to review the blog post topics that we discussed throughout this month. None are heavier than what we blogged about last week, hypertension, the silent killer, knowing your numbers, and what we will discuss here now. Today, we want to bring awareness to strokes and the possible correlation between poor sleep habits and sleep disorders. FYI. The month of May also encompasses the themes of Stroke Awareness and Better Sleep too.

What is a Stroke?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a stroke is a severe medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed in some matter. Such interruption can lead to brain damage, potential long-term disability, and even death. While there are various risk factors for a stroke, many studies have shown probable links between sleep disorders and an increased risk of having a stroke.

What are the types of Strokes?

Ischemic stroke - occurs when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels in the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages by building up in the blood vessels.

Hemorrhagic stroke - a hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.

High blood pressure and aneurysms—balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst—are examples of conditions that can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) - is a mini-stroke or warning sign that something is off in the body, and one needs to be addressed immediately. Like ischemic strokes, blood clots often cause TIAs. A third or more people who experience a TIA and do not get treatment have a major stroke within a year. As many as 10% to 15% of people will have a significant stroke within three months of a TIA. Therefore, it is highly imperative to recognize and treat TIAs, to ensure that your risk for a major stroke is lowered substantially. If you have a TIA, your healthcare team could help find the cause and take steps to prevent a major stroke from occurring.

What can cause a stroke?

Disruption to the blood supply to the brain can be due to natural causes, such as weakening of blood vessels over time or a genetic condition that increases the risk of experiencing a stroke. However, there are some factors that can increase the risk of experiencing a stroke; like:

· Atrial fibrillation

· Being overweight

· Dehydration

· Diabetes

· Drinking too much alcohol

· High blood pressure

· High cholesterol

· No physical activity

· Smoking

· Unhealthy eating (Poor diet, fatty foods, too much sugar)

What are Sleep Disorders?

Insomnia - characterized by an inability to initiate or maintain sleep. It may also take the form of early morning awakening in which the individual awakens several hours early and is unable to resume sleeping. Difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep may often manifest itself as excessive daytime sleepiness, which characteristically results in functional impairment throughout the day. Before arriving at a diagnosis of primary insomnia, the healthcare provider will rule out other potential causes, such as other sleep disorders, side effects of medications, substance abuse, depression, or other previously undetected illnesses. Chronic psychophysiological insomnia (or “learned” or “conditioned” insomnia) may result from a stressor combined with fear of being unable to sleep. Individuals with this condition may sleep better when not in their own beds. Health care providers may treat chronic insomnia with a combination of use of sedative-hypnotic or sedating antidepressant medications, along with behavioral techniques to promote regular sleep.

Narcolepsy - Excessive daytime sleepiness (including episodes of irresistible sleepiness) combined with sudden muscle weakness are the hallmark signs of narcolepsy. The sudden muscle weakness seen in narcolepsy may be elicited by strong emotion or surprise. Episodes of narcolepsy have been described as “sleep attacks” and may occur in unusual circumstances, such as walking and other forms of physical activity. The healthcare provider may treat narcolepsy with stimulant medications combined with behavioral interventions, such as regularly scheduled naps, to minimize the potential disruptiveness of narcolepsy on the individual’s life.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) - characterized by an unpleasant “creeping” sensation, often feeling like it is originating in the lower legs, but often associated with aches and pains throughout the legs. This often causes difficulty initiating sleep and is relieved by movement of the leg, such as walking or kicking. Abnormalities in the neurotransmitter dopamine have often been associated with RLS. Healthcare providers often combine various medications to help correct the underlying dopamine abnormality, along with a medicine to promote sleep continuity as a treatment for RLS.

Sleep Apnea – Uncontrollable snoring may be more than just an annoying habit – it may be a sign of sleep apnea. Persons with sleep apnea characteristically make periodic gasping or “snorting” noises, during which their sleep is momentarily interrupted. Those with sleep apnea may also experience excessive daytime sleepiness, as their sleep is commonly interrupted and may not feel restorative. Treatment of sleep apnea is dependent on its cause. If other medical problems are present, such as congestive heart failure or nasal obstruction, sleep apnea may resolve with treatment of these conditions. Gentle air pressure administered during sleep (typically in the form of a nasal continuous positive airway pressure device) may also be effective in the treatment of sleep apnea. As disruption of regular breathing or obstruction to the airway during sleep can pose serious health complications, symptoms of sleep apnea ought to be taken quite seriously. Treatment should always be sought from professional healthcare providers.

6 Things to remember about stroke awareness and the sleep connection:

1. Sleep Disorders and Stroke Risk:

a. Numerous sleep disorders have been identified in connection with an increased risk of stroke. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one such disorder characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. OSA has been linked to a higher risk of stroke, as it can lead to reduced oxygen levels in the blood, increased blood pressure, and changes in blood flow to the brain.

2. Mechanisms of Risk:

a. The exact mechanisms through which sleep disorders increase stroke risk are still being studied. However, it is believed that the disruptions in oxygen levels and blood flow during sleep contribute to the development of various cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and inflammation, which are known risk factors for a stroke.

3. Warning Signs of Stroke / Stroke Symptoms:

a. Being aware of the warning signs of stroke is crucial for early recognition and timely medical intervention. The most common signs include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body), confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, sudden severe headache, dizziness, and difficulty walking or poor balance coordination or maintaining balance.

b. By learning and sharing the F.A.S.T. warning signs, you may save a life from a stroke. F- Face, A-Arm, S- Speech, T- Time to call 911 without hesitation.

4. Importance of Sleep Hygiene:

a. The ability to maintain good sleep hygiene practices throughout life is essential for overall health and well-being, including stroke prevention.

b. Some general sleep hygiene tips include keeping a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment void of blue light and technology, avoiding caffeine, exercise, and electronic devices close to bedtime, taking a warm shower instead of a cold one, and engaging in relaxation techniques before sleep.

5. Seeking Medical Attention:

a. If you suspect you or someone else may be experiencing a stroke, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. The faster a stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of minimizing brain damage and improving outcomes. Call emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room without delay.

6. Consult with Healthcare Professionals:

a. If you have concerns about your sleep quality or suspect a sleep disorder, we recommend you consult your healthcare professionals, such as a primary care physician or a sleep specialist. They can evaluate your symptoms, order appropriate tests if necessary, and provide guidance on managing sleep-related conditions.


Remember, while there may be a link between sleep disorders and an increased risk of stroke, it does not necessarily mean that everyone with a sleep disorder will experience a stroke, but many can and will. However, it is imperative to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to address any sleep-related issues for overall health and well-being. Please take what you just read here very seriously because if left untreated can lead to an early death at any time.



American Stroke Association

Sleep & Sleep Disorders

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