If you’re one of the 45 percent of adults who occasionally snore, or the 25 percent of adults who snore regularly, you may think your snoring is harmless. The good news is that it often is, but unfortunately snoring can also be a sign of a more serious problem: sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea affects approximately 18 million Americans, and it doesn’t just make you snore. It can also cause you to stop and restart breathing throughout the night, making you gasp and choke for air as you try to sleep. This in turn means you wake frequently (often without realizing it) and have a less-restful night’s sleep. Not sleeping well can have dangerous consequences, including anxiety, depression, cognitive problems, and worse. In fact, sleep apnea has been found to contribute to serious illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
But now a new study has found that snoring itself can have dangerous effects on the body- namely the brain. Here are just a few ways snoring can adversely affect your brain health.
Loud snoring doesn’t just disturb your sleep partner, it can also be a warning sign of obstructive sleep apnea, and can even increase your risk of having a serious medical issue like stroke, cognitive decline, and as we mentioned, Alzheimer’s disease.
White Matter Hyperintensities
White matter hyperintensities are very small lesions that appear on the brain. These lesions appear as biomarkers for your brain health, and often occur more frequently with age or with uncontrolled high blood pressure, which can be caused by obstructive sleep apnea.
In fact, when participants in a recent brain health study were observed, it was found that those with severe sleep apnea had more white matter than persons with less severe medical conditions.
Diminished Brain Axon Integrity
When white matter hyperintensities appear on the brain, they show a decrease in the axons of the brain. These axons are what connect your nerve cells together.
The study found that for every 10 percent of decreased sleep the observed patients experienced, their white matter hyperintensities increased, which translates to the equivalent of the brain aging 2.3 years!
The study also found that the same 10 percent reduction in sleep also reduced the integrity of the brain axons, aging the brain by three years!
Treating Sleep Apnea and Snoring
If loud snoring sounds like you, you could have sleep apnea. Even if you think it’s “just” snoring, Dr. Abelar recommends getting evaluated for sleep apnea by a trusted sleep clinic. For those who have a sleep apnea diagnosis but don’t want to use CPAP therapy to treat their condition, Dr. Abelar can recommend a course of treatment such as a custom sleep orthotic that fits comfortably into the mouth and helps alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea.
To learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options, please contact Dr. Abelar’s office for a consultation today!