Patients in Kansas ask, “How does sleep apnea impact the brain and what are the effects of sleep apnea?”
Located in Lawrence, KS, Dr. Les Miller and the team at Lawrence Dental Solutions offer comprehensive services to ensure patients’ overall health and wellness. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Unfortunately, many people remain unaware they have the condition or do not understand the severity of it. Without treatment, sleep apnea can impact the body and brain. You may be asking, “how does sleep apnea impact the brain?” To answer that, one has to understand what happens during sleep for patients with the condition. Dr. Miller provides advice and treatment options for patients suffering from sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway is blocked when an individual is asleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form, the blockage is often from the soft tissue collapsing during sleep. The blockage can partially or completely disrupt airflow leading to interrupted or uncomfortable sleep. The pauses or breaks in breathing may last more than 10 seconds and can occur multiple times each hour. Although this condition is more commonly found in adults, sleep apnea can affect children and patients of all ages.
The pauses in breathing do not allow the individual to get enough oxygen. The body must work harder to get air into the lungs. The brain senses the problem and sends out adrenaline, partially rousing the patient. This causes snorting, choking, or snoring sounds once they catch their breath to breathe once more. This cycle repeats over and over, often numerous times each hour. Snoring may be a symptom of sleep apnea but snoring itself does not automatically equal this condition. Individuals may wake up groggy, feeling as though they did not get a full night’s sleep. They may have other symptoms that they may attribute to other causes or conditions.
Effects of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea takes a toll on the whole body. Undiagnosed and untreated, the condition worsens and can increase the chances of health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Patients with untreated sleep apnea may experience the following symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with memory
- Feeling excessively tired throughout the day
- Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
- Feeling moody or depressed
How does sleep apnea impact the brain? Sleep apnea is associated with repeated drops in blood oxygen level. This affects various organs of the body. In addition to the body, it is important to consider the effects that poor sleep and impaired breathing have on the brain. Not only is sleep interrupted leaving the patient tired and grumpy, but also the pauses in breathing during sleep affect the brain by depriving it of proper oxygen. Sleep apnea has been linked to the following brain problems:
- Memory loss – Studies are now linking sleep apnea with memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Low oxygen levels may impact certain levels of the brain more than others. One possibility is that the hippocampus, where Alzheimer’s is thought to start, is more sensitive to drops in oxygen.
- Migraines – Any migraine can be debilitating. Sleep apnea migraines may occur during the nighttime. A migraine is a way the body responds to sleep deprivation and lack of oxygen. Thankfully, when sleep apnea is treated and under control, the migraines should subside or at least lessen.
- Dizziness – Morning dizziness is another common side effect of sleep apnea. It occurs due to the lack of oxygen at night and not functioning fully upon waking. Moving from lying down to standing causes dizziness. Dizziness makes it more challenging to complete work and chores.
Patients who snore or who have symptoms of sleep apnea should consult their physicians to have the disease properly diagnosed. At Lawrence Dental Solutions, we offer oral appliances as alternatives to bulky CPAP machines for sleep apnea treatment. Custom created for each patient, oral appliances can effectively treat sleep apnea and other oral issues. The appliance comfortably keeps the jaw in the proper position and the airway open. It is worn while sleeping to help patients breathe more freely. This therapy is appropriate for patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.