Brain damage is linked to snoring and sleep apnoea, according to a recent article in The Courier Mail:
YOUR snoring and troubled nights could be a red flag for brain damage occurring while you sleep, latest Australian research indicates.
Brain scans of 60 people, aged in their mid-40s and recently diagnosed with a common sleep disorder, show a "decreased amount of grey matter" when compared to healthy sleepers.
The damage was seen in the brains of Australians suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition affecting many overweight Australians that is also commonly overlooked.
"In Australia currently ... the evidence suggests about 90 per cent of cases are undiagnosed," said sleep physician Dr Fergal O'Donoghue from the Institute for Breathing and Sleep at Melbourne's Austin Health.
At least four per cent of Australian men, and two per cent of women, in middle age were thought to have the condition.
"Usually it's a consistent snorer who seems to stop breathing in sleep, or complains of waking up with a feeling of choking, or being tired during the day," Dr O'Donoghue said today. "Those would be the red flags that this could be a problem with sleep apnoea."
People with this sleep disorder suffer from a collapse of their airways during the night, causing a pause in breathing that forces them to rouse from deep sleep.
Dr O'Donoghue said this could occur "many hundreds of times across the night" resulting in times when the brain was deprived of oxygen as well as "surges in blood pressure".
"What specific part of sleep apnoea might cause these changes we can't say, but we can see the changes that have occurred," Dr O'Donoghue said. "There was a decreased amount of grey matter, so (less) brain cells in those areas."
The damage was seen in two pockets of the brain, one near a part that handles memory and the other in a region known to process smooth movement as well as changes in attention during complex tasks.
Damage to this area could explain why people with sleep apnoea were also know to have a higher rate of car accidents, Dr O'Donoghue said, adding their fatigue from routine lack of sleep would also play a role.
"The take home message is if you complain of these sort of symptoms it is not a good idea to ignore it, you should seek help," he said.
"Snoring in itself, there are some suggestions that it may cause problems but by no means has that been shown to be definitely so. So it's snoring plus stopping breathing during sleep, or snoring plus waking up with a feeling of 'Gee, I've been choking'.
"Snoring and being sleepy during the day ... that's sleep apnoea."
Dr O'Donoghue's research was presented at the 22nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Sleep Association and Australasian Sleep Technologists Association conference, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Another study taking in 31 older Australians who sought treatment for insomnia found more than half (51.6 per cent) had sleep apnoea.
For more information, visit: www.SleepTherapyClinic.com