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Headache and Pain Center of South Florida

What Neurological Disorders Cause Sleep Apnea?

Most common sleep disorder

Apnea, the most common sleep disorder, causes people to stop breathing during sleep because of problems with the muscles or nerves that control their breathing. The effects include loud snoring, high blood pressure, irritability, loss of memory, poor concentration, and overall tiredness throughout the day.

An explanation about how sleep apnea happens in addition to a list of neurological conditions causing it follows:

What Causes Sleep Apnea

Sleep ApneaThe main reason for sleep apnea is an abnormality in the tissues and structures around the mouth and throat. These are called pharyngeal muscles, airway muscles, and tongue muscles. They produce a series of reflexes that keep them open so you can breathe without choking when you inhale. When they work improperly, you have apnea.

Neurological disorders that affect Sleep Apnea

  1. Epilepsy – This is one of the most common forms of seizures. Characterized by recurrent attacks of abnormal electrical activity in parts of the brain, epilepsy usually occurs in response to triggers outside the body. These triggers may include bright lights, sudden changes in temperature, or stress. Epilepsy causes sleep apnea because these attacks happen during sleep instead of during awake time. Most people who have epilepsy need medication to prevent or reduce these seizures. Treatment options also may include surgery.
  2. Multiple sclerosis (MS) – MS occurs when the white matter in your brain becomes inflamed or attacked by immune cells. Most often, it starts in childhood or early adulthood. Attacks result from inflammation of the myelin sheath, the fatty material that protects nerve cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. As MS progresses, it leaves a scar-like lesion in the brain and spine. People with MS may experience paralysis, vision disturbances like double vision, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness; cognitive impairment; fatigue; unsteady gait, bladder dysfunction, and erectile difficulties. Apnea can occur at any time, but it’s more likely to happen if you’re not taking your medications regularly.
  3. Parkinson’s Disease – Parkinson’s affects movement skills. Symptoms begin slowly and get progressively worse over time. Although most cases start after age 60 in men and women, some children also develop it. Parkinson’s affects coordination, balance, posture, speech, facial expression, and walking. You do not have to have severe symptoms to qualify. There are four types of Parkinson’s: primary, secondary, tremor dominant, and dementia associated with Parkinson’s. Apnea comes into play here due to daytime motor issues or nocturnal respiratory instability.
  4. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome – Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when someone stops drinking alcohol. Symptoms begin within days or weeks after stopping but can take months or years to resolve fully. Some people wake up feeling hungover before experiencing withdrawal and its symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe, including trouble falling asleep, sweating, shaking, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, hallucinations, psychosis, muscle cramps, and headaches. The risk of suicide is greatest soon after you stop drinking. If you suffer from alcoholism, ask your doctor about treatment options that might help you quit drinking altogether.
  5. Huntington’s chorea – Huntington’s is an inherited illness caused by genetic defects that lead to neuron problems. Chorea refers to involuntary jerky motions. Huntington’s begins with the onset of signs and symptoms in middle age. People with this condition have uncontrollable movements, poor coordination, and impaired ability to think clearly. These symptoms may be preceded by minor health issues, mood swings, forgetfulness, and weight loss. At first, only small areas of the body may become affected. Over time, more muscles will become involved until, eventually, all body parts are affected. Many people with Huntington’s die 25 to 50 years earlier than others their same age. Sleep Apnea can increase the risk of heart attack.
  6. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) – Spinal muscular atrophy (formerly known as Werdnig-Hoffmann disease) progressively affects the nerves and muscles. SMA causes progressive weakness and wasting away of the voluntary muscles of the arms and legs. In addition to the symptoms listed above, additional complications include frequent infections, malnutrition, scoliosis, and bowel/bladder incontinence. A person with symptoms since birth without improvement should see a physician immediately. Diagnosis can often be made based on family history for those beginning at an older age. Most people with SMA live until they reach adulthood, although a few survive well past 20 years. Apnea increases stress hormone levels and thus raises blood pressure, thereby worsening SMA. CPAP machines are advisable even if the patient shows little or no response to the treatment. This is because of the benefits of continuous positive airway pressure therapy, still being studied in SMA patients.

How a Neurologist Helps in Cases of Apnea

Neurologist Helps Sleep ApneaNeurologists are specialized doctors who evaluate and treat a wide variety of central nervous system disorders such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron diseases, mental retardation, and autism conditions. 

They perform various brain imaging methods like MRI scans and EEG tests to understand how the brain malfunctions. The neurologist also performs nerve conduction studies to assess whether the nerves function correctly. Based on these results, further tests such as lumbar puncture and spinal taps are performed to rule out specific neurological disorders.

They advise possible medication therapies and refer them to appropriate medical specialists when necessary. Neurologist Fort Lauderdale diagnose conditions related to sleep disorders such as apnea because of their training which includes studying the different aspects of sleep. As a result, they know about the effects of various drugs that influence the sleep cycle and also recognize the warning signs associated with sleep disorders.