Sleep Apnea and Parkinson’s disease

February 23rd, 2018 by Vishal Saini

Relationship between sleep apnea and Parkinson’s disease

Many of you might be wondering how sleep apnea is linked to Parkinson’s disease which can cause a significant impact on the life of an individual. A clinical trial was conducted on over 9,000 people with sleep apnea to assess it’s correlation with development of Parkinson’s disease. The results of this research has shown a positive correlation between sleep apnea and development of Parkinson disease specially in female population.

According to the results of this clinical research, 0.73% of people involved in the study developed Parkinson disease during the 5 year follow up. The hazard ratio of developing Parkinson disease is more (HR = 2.26) in patients with sleep apnea as compared to people without apnea. In females, the hazard ratio of developing this disease is even higher (HR = 3.54) in females with sleep apnea as compared to females without apnea.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

It is a disorder of the brain in which dopamine (a chemical in the brain) producing brain cells are affected. It is a slowly progressing disease although the progression may vary with the individual. The symptoms of this condition are many like pill rolling tremor, slow movements, rigid limbs, and balance problems. These symptoms can significantly affect the functionality and quality of life of a person.

What is the mechanism behind this correlation?

Sleep apnea leads to decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to the body including brain. Decrease in oxygen supply to the brain tissue and again restoring the supply can lead to oxidative stress. This oxidative stress causes damage to brain cells specifically dopaminergic cells causing neurodegeneration. The degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra is the process behind development of Parkinson disease.

Higher risk of developing Parkinson disease in female population with sleep apnea is possibly because sleep apnea is under recognized and under diagnosed in females. Moreover, mostly females have atypical presentation of sleep apnea, like insomnia, anxiety or depression. These atypical signs can delay the recognition of sleep apnea in a female patient both by physician and patient. Women suffering from sleep apnea are more likely diagnosed after the symptoms worsen.


Sleep apnea can lead to development of various vascular diseases like Parkinson disease. The risk is high with increasing age, severe symptoms of apnea, and in female patients. In female patients the risk is significantly high because of under diagnosis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, don’t wait until it affects the quality of your life or become a more serious problem. Our team of experts and our highly qualified physicians are here to help you feel better and sleep better.