By Eugena Brooks
Brain Awareness Week is March 16-20 this year. The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) is doing its part to get the word out that brain health. It is just as important as any other part of physical health, and we should all be aware of what we need to do to maintain a healthy mind.
When you sleep, your body flushes toxins from the brain. If you fail to get a restful night’s sleep this “cleaning” process is interrupted. People with sleep apnea may experience a wide range of daytime cognitive symptoms or mental impairment. You most likely already know about the side effects of sleep apnea such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Changes in brain matter and damage to neurons caused by sleep deprivation can lead to memory loss and other complications. Recent studies have shown that sleep apnea also changes the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Fortunately, proper treatment of the apnea and practice of healthy lifestyle in general can improve and even reverse the effects of the damage.
Due to waking up multiple times an hour throughout the night people with apnea are deprived of restful sleep. As a result, people experience symptoms that include shortened attention span and moodiness. The symptoms are much more serious than brain fog, fatigue and daytime sleepiness. During an apnea the brain is deprived of oxygen. This issue along with chronic fatigue may cause measurable brain damage.
Studies have found up to 20% shrinkage in both gray and white matter of patients with OSA as well as a change in how the brain works. In the end, studies have shown that after 3 months to a year of positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment, patients showed significant improvement.
American Sleep Apnea Association
Doctors Health Press