SLEEPtember Speaker Series Recap: Brain Function

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By Eugena Brooks

Greetings to all and here’s a recap of this week’s SLEEPtember Speaker Series for sleep apnea and brain function. Unchecked sleep apnea not only presents as interrupted breathing and daytime sleepiness but also impacts brain function creating serious cognitive issues as well. If we don’t factor in the sleep disturbance, we don’t have the whole story.

Joining host, Justine Amdur, was expert Michael Grandner PhD, MTR, CBSM, FAASM.

Dr. Grandner’s current research projects include one with a focus on sleep patterns and how they relate to neurocognitive function and cardiometabolic disease risk. Another current study focuses on social, environmental and behavioral factors and how they impact sleep. His methodologies include population-level surveys, computer-based geospatial analyses, home-based assessments of sleep and health, and in-laboratory studies.

One of the patient guests during this session was Erin Taylor who shared her experience as an expectant mother dealing with sleep apnea and how it impacted her cognitive abilities during her pregnancy. She experienced depression, anxiety, memory impairment, irritability, to name a few.

Peter and Jeanne Stein talked about their experience dealing with the onslaught of apnea on Peter and the cognitive issues he suffered as a result. Bi-polar disorder runs in his family, and he was experiencing manic periods where sleep apnea was later proven to be his chief problem. Peter described his alertness levels to be dangerously low before his sleep apnea was diagnosed, so much so that he had to take naps on the side of the road every 20 minutes while he was driving.

Dr. Grandner points out that sleep disturbances are key in cases such as anxiety and depression.

SLEEPtember Take Aways for Brain Function are:

· Sleep apnea is notorious for causing consistent brain fog. Making it difficult for individuals to concentrate.

· Apnea can lead to or worsen mental health causing issues like depression especially during and after pregnancy.

· Not only will sleep apnea aggravate issues such as anxiety, bi-polar disorder or depression but very often people are treated with medication for the mental or health issue and not checked for sleep disturbances.

· Also understand your equipment and supplies. Just because you have suited up does not mean the job is done. Is your mask the best fit for you? Are your PAP settings right for you?

In conclusion, having the conversation with your doctor about sleep apnea and your health is particularly important. Sleep apnea unchecked in any way can lead to or aggravate so many unwanted and unnecessary health issues.