Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person experiences pauses in breathing while asleep. These pauses can last anywhere from 10 seconds to up to a minute. In very severe cases, they can last even longer. Not only is the length of time the body goes without oxygen in each episode important, but also the fact that apnea episodes disrupt your sleep cycle.
Three Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is by far the most common type of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in your airway are partially or fully collapsed. This blockage prevents oxygen from reaching your body and brain. Once your brain senses a lack of oxygen or build-up of carbon dioxide, it panics and awakens you so you can continue breathing. You may not notice these awakenings, but they’re preventing you from getting quality sleep.
Complex Sleep Apnea: This form of sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea and is usually treatment-emergent. Meaning you develop central sleep apnea from treating your obstructive sleep apnea.
Poor Sleep and Cognitive Issues
Sleep apnea ultimately reduces the quality of your sleep. With frequent awakenings, your body can’t spend long enough in each stage of sleep to restore itself. Spending enough time in each stage is especially important for your brain. During stage one, your brain slows down. Stage two is when your body slows further, and it’s thought that your brain stores memories from the day during this stage. Stage three is when things get interesting. During stage three, your brain slows further, and everything sleeps except for a process called cerebrospinal fluid flow. This fluid bathes the brain and removes any waste created throughout the day. Stage four is known as REM sleep, and during this stage, we dream.
What does all this have to do with memory and diseases like Dementia and Alzheimers? Well, in Alzheimer’s patients, tartar and plaque build upon the brain. This build-up happens to be made of those toxic proteins or wastes that the cerebrospinal fluid is supposed to wash away during the third stage of sleep. If you aren’t spending enough time in stage three or don’t make it there at all, there could be severe neurological consequences that eventually could lead to Dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Help
A small study conducted by Texas A&M University College of Dentistry, the University of Texas at Dallas, and the Center for BrainHealth found that reducing snoring showed memory improvement. About half of those in the study with Alzheimer’s and the majority of those with mild cognitive impairment had improved memories using a snoring appliance. This small-scale study shows promise that early intervention could reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Snoring is a common symptom in those with obstructive sleep apnea because snoring occurs when the airway is partially closed. Though not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, the step from a partially closed airway to a fully closed one isn’t far and is a natural progression for many. It stands to reason that getting a better night’s sleep, one where your body can progress naturally through each stage without interruption, can reduce your risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Symptoms of sleep apnea can vary depending on the severity of the condition.
Gasping or choking during sleep
Dozing off during mundane tasks (including driving!)
Waking up often during the night or using the bathroom often during the night
Waking with a sore throat or dry mouth
Having headaches in the early morning
Poor memory and difficulty concentrating
If you are experiencing multiple of these common symptoms, it’s worth it to get tested for sleep apnea. Along with preventing cognitive diseases like Dementia and Alzheimers, treatment for sleep apnea can reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. It’s imperative for the health and longevity of your body and brain that you get quality sleep at night.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment
The good news for you is that sleep apnea treatment doesn’t need to be scary or a burden. At élan by Megan Hodges, we recommend a sleep test for you. If you’re shown to have obstructive sleep apnea, we can help you with treatment. A CPAP may be necessary in some severe cases, but you could get away with Oral Appliance Therapy in others. Oral Appliance Therapy uses a sleek mouthguard-like appliance that you wear at night when you sleep. The device repositions your tongue and lower jaw, so your airway stays clear while you get some much-needed shut-eye.
An oral appliance is also an excellent option for those who have tried a CPAP and struggle to use it nightly. CPAP can cause some annoyances such as noise, claustrophobia, and discomfort. With an oral appliance, you can wear it comfortably every night. The best treatment for sleep apnea is the one that works best for you—the one you will use every night.
Looking for Sleep Apnea Treatment in Tulsa, OK?
If you suspect or know sleep apnea, Dr. Megan Hodges can help. She can get you set up with a sleep test and proscribe the best treatment option for you. The one that will help you get the best sleep and fits your lifestyle. Don’t suffer from sleep apnea any longer; give Dr. Hodges a call at (918) 528-3330 or schedule an appointment online to improve your quality of life and protect your future.