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Sleep Seminars Blog

Support Your Patients’ Brain Health by Offering Sleep Apnea Therapy

January 10, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — 21stsleep @ 1:59 pm
Illustration of person with poor brain health due to sleep apnea

The brain controls virtually every aspect of how humans work, from basic things like breathing to higher functions like feeling and thinking. It is one of the most complex and wonderful creations in the universe! Unfortunately, it is also somewhat delicate. Something as seemingly innocuous as a sleep disorder could compromise brain health. Let’s discuss how that that occurs and how you can support your patient’s mental well-being by offering sleep apnea therapy.

OSA and the Blood-Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier is a network of blood vessels and other tissues that is designed to shield the brain from harmful substances. It allows important things like oxygen, water, and more to pass through. At the same time, it prevents most fungi, bacteria, and parasites from reaching the brain.

Research has uncovered that people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a more permeable blood-brain barrier than people who sleep well. In other words, their brain is more vulnerable to damage. They are at an increased risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, memory loss, and other serious conditions.

What is the reason behind the connection between OSA and damage to the blood-brain barrier? Some researchers believe it may be related to oxygen deprivation. However, the exact nature of the relationship between the two issues not yet fully understood.

Sleep Apnea and the Shape of the Brain

OSA may do more than damage the blood-brain barrier. It is also a threat to mammillary bodies — specialized structures in the brain that help with memory storage. Individuals with troubled sleep may experience a reduction in the size of their mammillary bodies by up to 20%.

Additionally, OSA is correlated with a reduction of white matter and gray matter in the brain. White matter is essential in regulating memory, mood, and blood pressure. Gray matter is important in movement, memory, and emotions.

What You Can Do

The relationship between OSA and brain damage is nothing to be lightly dismissed. Happily, though, you are in a position to help your patients experience improved brain health. Research has found that after one year of sleep apnea treatment, patients regained almost all of their lost white matter, and it took mere months for their gray matter to improve. Similarly, the blood-brain barrier has the capacity to heal itself when a person gets adequate rest and takes in proper nutrition. Many patients experience noticeable improvements in things like mood, memory, and concentration within weeks of beginning OSA treatment.

Sleep apnea is a big threat to the brain! Fortunately, by offering sleep apnea therapy, you can help OSA sufferers in your community to enjoy a healthy and sharp mind.

Meet the Sleep Apnea Expert

Dr. Kent Smith was the first dentist in all of Texas to be awarded a Dental Sleep Medicine Facility Accreditation. Today, he enjoys treating members of his community as well as training his fellow dentists to support their patients’ overall wellness by incorporating oral appliance therapy into their practice. To learn more about the educational programs he and our team offer, contact us at 817-318-6352.

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