Did you know that one-quarter of the American adult population suffers from sleep apnea? And unfortunately, many patients don’t receive adequate treatment which can lead to other serious health problems. To be more precise, untreated sleep apnea is closely linked to the following health conditions: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Furthermore, there’s also a lesser-known sleep apnea connection with brain damage. For that reason, continue reading this article to learn everything you need to know about sleep apnea and brain damage and what the relationship between these two is.
What’s Sleep Apnea?
First and foremost, to be able to understand the connection between sleep apnea and brain damage, you should first learn about this common sleep disorder.
Namely, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep which pauses oxygen flow temporarily. This pause can cause damaging effects that may harm the brain. In most cases, the halt in airflow will cause headaches or shortness of breath, but in severe cases, low oxygen levels in the blood can impede both heart and brain function, eventually leading to cardiovascular and brain damage.
In addition, those who suffer from central sleep apnea (CSA), are more likely to end up with impaired brain function. Contrary to obstructive sleep apnea which occurs due to blocked airway, CSA occurs because the brain fails to send the right signals to your respiratory muscles, resulting in breathing irregularities while asleep. That said, these patients may experience different forms of brain damage in the long run.
Here’s how you can tell your sleep apnea has caused brain damage:
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea Induced Brain Damage
There are numerous symptoms of brain damage caused by sleep apnea targeting different body parts such as the nervous system, the digestive system, or the bones. Some people also report having cognitive symptoms. Yet, regardless of the symptoms you experience, make sure you seek professional help as soon as you notice them. The most common sleep apnea induced brain damage symptoms are the following:
- Blurred vision
- Memory issues
- Balance problems
- Temporary loss of consciousness
Sleep Apnea and Brain Damage
As we already mentioned, sleep apnea results in reduced flow of oxygen in the blood which leads to brain damage. The reason for this is the fact that oxygen is crucial for brain growth and healing, and if the flow is restricted in any way, it can lead to long-term damage that will not only affect your brain but your overall health, too.
Mainly, sleep apnea may lead to experiencing attention and memory issues, as well as problems with other executive functions, short memory loss, lowered IQ, brain fog, reduced creativity, and slow thinking.
Can Sleep Apnea Induced Brain Damage be Reversed?
This is the question that bothers every sleep apnea patient. Luckily, by getting adequate sleep apnea treatment the brain damage caused by this sleep disorder can be reversed. And, when speaking of treatment, the number one therapy for sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) that prevents upper airway blockage while inhaling. Regular CPAP treatment can help you restore brain structure to the state it was before, i.e. normal state. It will also help you boost energy levels and mood and your quality of life.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the potential damage this sleep disorder can do to your brain and health is crucial. Although sleep apnea may cause damage in the long run, with the use of CPAP therapy you can undo this damage and improve both your symptoms and quality of life.