Sleep/Sleep Apnea

Lack of oxygen during sleep (hypoxia) caused by sleep apnea can lead to inflammation. Inflammation is known to be a risk factor in cavernous malformation lesion development. Research is ongoing to determine whether having sleep apnea correlates to having more severe cavernous malformation illness.

Obstructive sleep apnea refers to a serious condition that occurs when the airway becomes obstructed during sleep causing breathing to stop for ten seconds or more. Sleep apnea can also occur when signals from the brain that tell our muscles to breathe are not functioning properly resulting in apneic episodes.

Can sleep apnea impact patients with Cavernous malformations?

Researchers are closely examining the relationship between cavernous malformations and sleep apnea. They are conducting a study to determine whether the oxygen deprivation that is the result of sleep apnea is related to the number of lesions found in those with the hereditary form of cavernous malformation. Preliminary studies with mice, not yet published, have shown this may be the case.

Sleep apnea and cavernous malformation symptoms

Sleep apnea may also play a role in some of the symptoms that CCM patients experience. Experts hypothesize that those with sleep apnea are at a greater risk for CCM symptom exacerbation.

“A lot of the symptoms related to sleep apnea are the symptoms our CCM patients have: headache, fatigue, cognitive issues. If somebody has sleep apnea, then that needs to be taken care of much more aggressively than in the general population” – Dr. Atif Zafar

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

Answering ‘yes’ to the following questions is a great first step to identifying your risk for sleep apnea:

  • Do you wake up throughout the night choking or gasping for air?
  • Do you experience excessive sleepiness during the day?
  • Do you snore loudly?
  • Do you frequently stop breathing in your sleep?
  • Are you overweight?

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, please speak with your doctor or a sleep medicine specialist who can help guide you towards proper diagnosis and treatment. Pulmonologist Dr. Kimberly Foley shares more about the risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep apnea in her presentation on our YouTube channel.

Updated: 4.16.22