Brain Damage from Snoring?
Snoring from sleep apnea can have dangerous consequences. For years physicians have known that chronic snoring can cause daytime symptoms of fatigue that affect cognitive function and memory loss due to the interruption in sleep it causes. A new study out of Australia from the Institute for Breathing and Sleep at Melbourne’s Austin Health reveals not just an impact in function. Snoring while you sleep could be the cause of brain damage.
During the Australian study, brain scans of 60 people in their mid 40’s who were recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, showed “a decreased amount of gray matter” compared to healthy sleepers. Sleep apnea is caused by the airways collapsing while asleep at night, pausing breathing and forcing sleep apnea sufferers from rousing from a deep sleep, sometimes “hundreds of times a night,” according to Dr. O’Donoghue of Austin Health. This pause results in the brain being deprived of oxygen as well as “surges in blood pressure”.
Since the scans showed decreased amount of grey matter in the brain, it meant there was damage in certain areas. According to O’Donoghue, the damage was evident in two pockets of the brain, one that handles memory and the other known to allow smooth movement and changes in attention during complex tasks. Earlier studies have showed that this part of the brain is activated during a driving task, and therefore may explain why sleep apnea patients have an increased risk of car accidents.
“What specific part of sleep apnea might cause these changes we can’t say, but we can see the changes that have occurred…The take home message is if you complain of these sort of symptoms it is not a good idea to ignore it, you should seek help,” Dr. O’Donoghue said.
This research was presented at the 22nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Sleep Association and Australasian Sleep Technologists Association Conference, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
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