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Sleep Apnea May Alter The Size Of Your Brain

A recent study published online by the journal Neurology suggests that brain size my be affected by lack of sleep.

In a study involving 147 adults, ranging in ages of 20 years old to 84 years old, the link between sleep problems such as sleep apnea and the volume of the participants’ brains were examined by researchers.  A scan was taken of each participant’s brain, and they were asked to complete a questionnaire about their sleep habits.  A second brain scan was taken approximately three and a half years after the first one.

Results from the questionnaire showed that 35% of participants qualified as having unhealthy sleep patterns, according to the study’s criteria.  It was also shown that the participants with sleep problems saw a more rapid decline in the volume or size of their brains over the study’s time period than the participants who consistently slept well.

For those participants who were older than 60 years old, the results were even more significant.

Numerous studies have shown how important sleep is and how the brain can be effected by sleep deprivation.  It is very well known, in fact, that poor sleep pattens contribute to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

It is a logical and natural conclusion that if memory loss can be caused by lack of sleep, that the volume and size of the brain could also be affected by sleep deprivation.

According to Dr. Neal Maru, neurologist and sleep specialist with Integrated Sleep Services located in Alexandria, Virginia, is it a well known fact that all kinds of problems can result from lack of sleep.  He also stated that memory, the immune system, weight and cardiovascular heath can all be affected by poor sleep, although the specific reasons are not known yet.

One potential cause is, it is has been shown in studies that lack of sleep may cause protein to build up in the brain, which in turn attacks brain cells.

According to Clair Sexton, one of the authors of the University of Oxford study, it is not yet known whether or not poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of brain structure changes.

She also explains that additional research is needed to determine whether improving the quality of sleep for an individual will slow down low brain volume rate.  If that is true, then an effective way of improving brain health may be to use effective treatments for improving sleep habits.

Dr. Maru is in agreement with the fact that it isn’t known which of these comes first: whether the sleep problem is what causes brain atrophy or whether brain atrophy is the cause of the sleep problem.

Shine Dental Associates is proud to offer sleep apnea treatment for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Our Board-Certified Periodontist, Vikas Mittle DDS, provides custom-fitted oral appliance therapy for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

For more information about our sleep apnea treatment give us a call at (516) 348-8500.


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