With so many widely-known symptoms and side effects to sleep apnea, it’s natural that researchers are working diligently to find out more about this troublesome illness. While obstructive sleep apnea occurs most frequently in older men (typically over 50 and overweight) it can occur in anyone, including women, children, and teens.
Recently a new study was conducted on the brains of teenagers suffering from sleep apnea. What researchers found was staggering.
The study was conducted at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, and examined nearly 130 teenagers who were considered obese or overweight, and were able to diagnose sleep apnea in about half of them. From there, they gave the patients MRI scans to get a closer look at their hippocampus and cortex which are areas of the brain responsible for “higher-level thinking” like learning, memory, and decision making, according to Science Alert.
What the study found was that in the brains of the teenagers who were diagnosed with sleep apnea, their cortex was quite a bit thinner in the right superior parietal portion than in those teens who were in the control group. In fact, the worse the case of sleep apnea, the more slender the superior parietal region appeared.
So what does this mean? Well, according to researchers it could have a negative impact on the teens’ cognitive development.
Thinning in the superior parietal region is commonly seen in adults with sleep fragmentation, and in children with early-life disadvantages, such as those who live in poverty or with a single parent.
When the hippocampus was evaluated, researchers found that it was enlarged in those teens with sleep apnea, and increased as sleep apnea symptoms worsened. This is likely due to swelling and inflammation.
This type of brain damage has also been seen in some teens with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.
If your teen suffers from sleep apnea, the best way to protect them is to seek out treatment as soon as possible. Dr. Abelar offers sleep solutions that can help your teen get a more restful night’s sleep.
A mandibular orthotic device can help your teen by positioning their airway open naturally, allowing them to get the oxygen they need to get a good night’s sleep, and hopefully protect them from the dangers of sleep apnea.
To learn more about sleep apnea and mandibular devices, please contact Dr. Abelar’s office today for more information!