It’s been well established that brain injury leads to sleep apnea, and now it seems that spinal cord injury can also lead to sleep disordered breathing. People who have suffered a spinal cord injury should be screened for sleep disordered breathing to help them get appropriate treatment that can improve their quality of life and aid healing.

A Small but Thorough Study

A study published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine looked thoroughly at 26 spinal cord injury victims to determine the quality of their sleep. The victims included 8 females, 18 males, fifteen with neck-level injuries and 11 with torso-level injuries, with an average age of about 43 years.They found that 92% of them had poor sleep quality, and that 77% of them had sleep disordered breathing.

Patients underwent sleep studies, that were scored using more traditional and more recent measurements. Many of the patients had both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Patients were more likely to have central sleep apnea if they had a neck injury. They also tended to have more apneic events, and they were more likely to have higher buildup of carbon dioxide in their system.

In breathing tests, patients performed better when sitting upright than when lying down. They also tended to have more laxity in the throat tissue.

People in the study had normal BMI on average, so obesity wasn’t a major factor in their sleep disordered breathing.

Recommended Sleep Evaluation

As a result of their findings, researchers recommended, “All spinal cord injury patients should undergo a comprehensive sleep evaluation using full, overnight polysomnography for the accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea.”

If you have been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, we can help you get evaluated by a physician to determine whether you have sleep apnea so we can recommend appropriate treatment. Please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha today.