Sleep apnea has a lot more health implications than one may think. Not only does it leave you feeling groggy and tired in the morning, but it can literally change the way your brain chemistry and body work. The physical side effects of sleep apnea are well documented. In fact, you’ve probably heard about many of them, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. But the truth is, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can take a heavy toll on your brain and emotions as well.
When individuals suffer from sleep apnea, they often struggle to breath, or even stop altogether, during the night. As the brain’s oxygen supply is cut off, measurable physical damage occurs, changing the brain’s normal functions. Mammillary bodies- structures responsible for memory storage- are particularly affected by this lack of oxygen. Research done at UCLA compared the mammillary bodies of sleep apnea sufferers with those of healthy individuals. They found that the troubled sleepers had nearly 20% smaller mammillary bodies than those who did not.
Multiple studies have discovered a decrease in both gray and white matter in OSA- affected brains. This research also concluded that poor sleep quality caused by OSA could be responsible for poor memory, emotional problems, and decreased cognitive function.
There are two important chemicals that impact how the brain is working. Referred to as neurotransmitters, these chemicals are glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Studies done by the UCLA School of Nursing found substantial differences in the amounts of these two chemicals present in the brains of OSA patients. In high doses, glutamate can actually cause damage to the brain. The good news is, these effects have been shown to be reversible.
The Power of A CPAP
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a pair of studies that evaluated the effects of CPAP therapy. They found that after a year of treatment, patients’ white brain matter was almost completely restored, while gray matter substantially improved after three months.
If you or a loved one is suffering from brain-related symptoms of sleep apnea, schedule an appointment at our sleep apnea dental office in Glen Burnie with our sleep apnea dentist in 21061 or your doctor. Together, you can find a solution that will have you feeling like a normal person again.