The human brain is one of the most wonderful and complex creations in the universe. Unfortunately, though, it is also quite delicate. Even something as simple as not getting enough high-quality rest could drastically affect its ability to function. Let’s talk about the connection between sleep apnea and brain health and what you can do to keep your brain working its best.
OSA and the Blood-Brain Barrier
The blood-brain barrier is a complex network of blood vessels and other tissues that protect the brain from harmful substances. It is designed to let things like water, oxygen, and some other substances, pass through, while it prevents most bacteria, fungi, and parasites from reaching the brain.
Sadly, research has found that in people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the blood-brain barrier is more permeable. Hence, their brain is more vulnerable to damage. Such individuals are at a higher risk of suffering from memory loss, depression, anxiety, and other serious conditions.
The connection between sleep apnea and damage to the blood-brain barrier may be related to the fact that people with sleep apnea are often deprived of oxygen. However, the exact nature of the relationship is not yet completely understood.
Sleep Apnea and the Shape of Your Brain
In addition to damaging the blood-brain barrier, sleep apnea can also be bad news for mammillary bodies — structures in the brain that play a role in memory storage. People with troubled sleep may have mammillary bodies that are 20% smaller than those in healthy individuals.
As if that weren’t enough, multiple studies have demonstrated that sleep apnea is correlated with a decrease in white matter and gray matter in the brain. White matter plays an essential role in mood, memory, and regulating blood pressure.
What You Can Do
While the above information may sound scary, there is no need to be too alarmed. As delicate as the brain is, it is also resilient and has mechanisms in place to repair itself. Studies have found that after one year of treatment, patients with sleep apnea regained almost all of the white matter that they had lost. Their gray matter improved after just three months of treatment.
The blood-brain barrier may also recover after you begin sleep apnea therapy. Getting enough rest, along with taking in proper nutrition, may restore its integrity.
You probably won’t need any complex or expensive scans to notice improvements in your brain health after you start sleep apnea treatment. Many patients find that within weeks or months, they enjoy better moods, improved memory, and increased concentration.
Sleep apnea is a threat to your brain! Fortunately, treatment options are available that may help you enjoy a sharp and healthy mind.
Meet the Practice Dr. Mitch Conditt is an experienced dentist and sleep apnea expert. Whether you have officially been diagnosed with sleep apnea or you simply suspect that you have it, he would be happy to recommend your next steps. To learn more about Dr. Conditt and the services he provides, contact us at 817-527-8500.