Brain damage may explain problems related to sleep apnea such as memory loss and mood changes.
A recent study in the Journal of Sleep Research shows evidence of physical damage to your brain tissue caused by sleep apnea. This damage can explain memory loss, attention lapses and mood changes.
Sixteen adults in France had been diagnosed with sleep apnea. After taking images of their brains, distinct areas had loss of “gray matter” as well as a reduction in brain metabolism. The areas most affected are those that store memory, both short term and long term.
What causes this brain damage? The authors suggest that the damage may involve lower blood-oxygen level, blood flow and blood pressure. Frequent episodes of apnea can produce drastic changes in blood oxygen level as well as reduce blood flow to the brain. Both of these conditions can be potentially damaging to brain tissue.
Sleep apnea involves breathing pauses that can occur hundreds of times during a night of sleep. These pauses can produce drastic changes in oxygen levels.
These breathing pauses also reduce blood flow in the brain. People with sleep apnea also are at risk for high blood pressure. Both of these conditions create a potential for brain tissue damage. It is unknown if these changes can be reversed.
The best thing you can do is treat your sleep apnea and prevent the changes from taking place.