Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea may be more likely to experience changes in the brain that are associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the findings of a recent study.
Sleep apnea has been linked to a host of health problems, including an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. Although dangerous, sleep apnea is treatable and can often be corrected with the use of a dental appliance; if you or a loved one experiences chronic snoring or other symptoms of sleep apnea, your dentist may be able to help.
Sleep Apnea and Lack of Oxygen
People with sleep apnea and those who regularly spend little time in deep sleep don’t maintain as much oxygen in their blood as others. According to a recent study published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, this can lead to micro infarcts, which are abnormalities in the brain tissue associated with dementia.
The study found that people who lack sufficient oxygen in their blood during sleep—which occurs with sleep apnea and other conditions including emphysema—are more likely to develop micro infarcts than those who maintain higher levels of oxygen in the blood while asleep. Those who spent less time in deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, were also more likely to experience a loss of brain cells.
Brain activity during slow-wave sleep is thought to be critical in processing new memories and storing information. While people naturally spend less time in slow-wave sleep as they age, the loss of brain cells stemming from a long-term lack of deep sleep is also thought to be associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Although loud, regular snoring is the most widely reported symptom of sleep apnea, those with sleep apnea typically suffer from other indicators that may also include:
- Recurring daytime drowsiness
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty focusing at work or school
- Inability to sleep through the night
- Regularly waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Waking from sleep abruptly and short of breath
People with sleep apnea may also feel fatigued, depressed or irritable.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea can often be successfully treated with the use of comfortable, custom-made oral appliances.
These devices are similar to sports mouthguards, and they are generally worn during sleep to help stabilize your jaw and allow you to maintain an open airway. There are a number of appliances available, and the right choice depends on the source and severity of your condition; your dentist can help you determine the best option for your unique needs.
Austin dentist Dr. Dan Matthews has helped numerous patients (and their family members) restore healthy, restful sleep through the appliance-based treatment of snoring and sleep apnea. If you or a loved one suffers from symptoms of sleep apnea, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call 512-452-2273 to schedule your consultation.