The human brain is complex, wonderful, and powerful. Unfortunately, however, it can also be quite delicate. Even something as seemingly simple as not getting enough rest could significantly affect its ability to function. This blog post discusses the link between sleep apnea and poor brain health, and it provides information on what you can do to keep your mind as sharp as possible.
Sleep Apnea and the Blood-Brain Barrier
The blood-brain barrier is a highly complex network of blood vessels and other important tissues. They work together to protect the brain from harmful substances, such as most fungi, bacteria, and parasites. At the same time, it allows things like oxygen, water, and some other items, to pass through.
Sadly, researchers have found that in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the blood brain barrier is more permeable. In other words, the brain becomes more susceptible to damage. Such people are therefore at a higher risk of experiencing depression, memory loss, anxiety, and other serious conditions.
The correlation between OSA and a weakened blood-brain barrier may be due to the fact that sleep apnea can decrease the amount of oxygen in the body. However, the exact mechanisms through which the barrier becomes more permeable are not yet fully understood.
Sleep Apnea and the Shape of Your Brain
Sleep apnea can do more than just damage the blood-brain barrier. It can also lead to adverse consequences for mammillary bodies, structures in the brain that are important for memory storage. Individuals with troubled sleep can have shrunken mammillary bodies — which may be up to 20% smaller than those in healthy people.
Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that OSA is associated with declining levels of white and gray matter in the brain. White matter is important in regulating mood, memory, and blood pressure. Gray matter is also key in mood and memory; additionally, it plays a role in bodily movements.
What You Can Do
The information above may seem rather scary, but there is no need to be too dismayed about your brain health. As fragile as this organ can be, it is also resilient. Given the right set of circumstances, it can repair itself. Studies have found that after a year of treatment, sleep apnea patients regained almost all of their white matter, and their gray matter showed significant improvement after only three months.
The blood-brain barrier can also bounce back from damage. With adequate rest and balanced nutrition, it may be able to regain its integrity and optimal function.
If you suspect that OSA is compromising your brain health, now is the time to speak to a professional about your options for sleep apnea therapy. Hopefully, you will soon experience improved memory, better moods, and other benefits of a healthy brain.
Meet the Practice
The team of dentists at Four Town Dental are proud to offer a range of general and advanced services, including sleep apnea treatment. Specifically, they provide oral appliance therapy. If you would like to learn more about how they may be able to help you achieve better rest, and possibly a healthier brain, contact our office at 860-856-6928.