Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. The flow of air through the airway passage either pauses momentarily or decreases while the person is asleep.
This may happen due to a narrow, blocked or floppy airway duct which causes a possible momentary pause in breathing called an apnea episode. (1)
Older studies have found a link between OSA and stroke. However a new study conducted by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas clearly demonstrated the effect of OSA on the function of cerebral vessels in as early as 30 days of OSA exposure.
This study used an animal model which mimicked OSA in humans. (2)
The new model included the model of intermittent hypoxia where animals are exposed to a decreased level of blood oxygen. It also took into consideration the revised model, incorporating all physiological consequences involved in OSA by inducing closure of airway duct for a few seconds.
This made the new and revised model a more comprehensive representation of the OSA process that unfolds in humans.
In the eight-hour sleep duration, the model induced 30 sleep apneas every hour, of 10 seconds each. They did this for a period of one month.
Within this period, the altered function of cerebral vessels became evident. The dilatory function of these vessels was reduced by as much as 22 percent. This caused damage to the vascular wall in the brain arteries, in turn increasing the risk of stroke in an individual experiencing OSA.
Researcher Randy Crossland is of the opinion that the new model employed was qualitatively superior to the prevalent methodology as it gave a more complete picture of how repetitive exposure to obstructive sleep apnea affects humans and their bodies.
Crossland also opined that the degree and quickness of deterioration in terms altered cerebral vessel functioning in a very short time for individual’s suffering from OSA.
Only one month of moderate OSA can created altered cerebrovascular function which could lead to a stroke. This finding underscores the damaging effects of OSA on the body.