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How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Brain Health?

December 8, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljadam @ 8:13 pm
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Do you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? If so, you know from experience how much it can affect your quality of life and overall health. It can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and even diabetes. However, it may surprise you to learn that it can also take a significant toll on your brain health. Failing to get a good night’s sleep regularly can lead to memory loss among other problems. Read on to learn more about the effects of the sleep disorder on your brain, and why you should seek sleep apnea therapy.

The Effects of Sleep Apnea on the Brain

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have reported evidence that obstructive sleep apnea contributes to the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier that helps protect the brain tissue by limiting harmful bacteria, infections, and chemicals from reaching the brain. Fortunately, this discovery could lead to new approaches to treat sleep apnea.

Let’s take a look at how the disorder can affect your brain health:

It Can Contribute to Memory Loss

Sleep apnea causes people to wake up multiple times every hour throughout the night. As a result, they tend to experience a range of daytime symptoms like fatigue, shortened attention span, moodiness, and reduced short-term recall. Consolidating memories, or storing experiences so they can be accessed later, is an essential link in the memory-creating process that occurs during sleep. When slumber is interrupted, it causes people to have difficulty incorporating and categorizing their experiences, leading to impaired memory formation and forgetfulness.

It Changes the Shape of the Brain

Not only does sleep apnea cause chronic fatigue, but physical and immeasurable brain damage as well. Studies show that the mammillary bodies (important structures in the brain that are critical for the memory stage) are nearly 20% smaller in adults who suffer from sleep apnea. Plus, another study found that the combination of poor sleep quality and progressive brain damage could be responsible for poor memory, emotional problems, decreased cognitive functioning, and increased cardiovascular disturbances.

It Changes How the Brain Works

One study published by the Journal of Sleep Research by the UCLA School of Nursing investigated the injury caused to the insular cortex of the brain by sleep apnea. They found significant differences in the two chemicals that influence how the brain is working.

Why Is Sleep Apnea Therapy Important?

Luckily, you can easily improve your brain health with sleep apnea therapy. By treating the disorder, your brain chemicals can return to normal levels. One study evaluated the effects of CPAP therapy on patients who had significant damage to their brain matter. After a year of treatment, they found that the matter was almost completely restored. Even though these findings point to promising results, more research is being conducted to support this.

Are you or a loved one suffering from sleep apnea? Don’t hesitate to ask your dentist about sleep apnea therapy. Seeking treatment is the best way to keep your brain health in optimal condition for years to come!

About the Author

Dr. LJ Adam has over 15 years of dentistry experience under his belt. After earning his Doctor of Dental Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2004, he’s regularly attended numerous continuing education courses to ensure he delivers the best treatment possible. Dr. Adam has also studied and personally tested sleep apnea treatment devices to help patients suffering from the disorder. To learn more about sleep apnea therapy, visit his website or call (724) 297-3446.

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