A number of recent studies have shown a link between sleep deprivation and neurological conditions. You can add a new study to the list.
Researchers with the Mayo Clinic conducted a study with 140 participants with an average age of 73, all of whom had clean bills of mental health (i.e. no dementia, Alzheimer’s or issues with thought processing), all of whom were suffering from sleep apnea ranging from mild to severe. Each participant spent the night in a sleep lab for observation and underwent brain scans to get a sense of the condition of the participant’s nerve fibers that compose the brain’s white matter.
What researchers found when comparing the scans and sleep patterns won’t be surprising to those familiar with the impact of sleep apnea, but they should be concerning to anyone suffering from sleep apnea, particularly those of advanced age. According to the study, subjects with the poorest overall sleep quality were the most likely to show signs of white matter damage.
In fact, they were able to quantify the levels of damage. Every 10-point drop in the percentage of deep sleep – which is when the body really repairs itself – was correlated to an increase in white matter damage associated with aging an additional 2.3 years.
Of course, the researchers were careful to point out that correlation isn’t causation. But with so many studies showing poor sleep correlated with a lengthy list of health problems ranging from heart disease to glaucoma to depression, it’s not hard to make an argument that addressing obstructive sleep apnea can give your overall health a big boost.
Source: Scans Suggest Sleep Apnea Could Be Harming Your Brain (USNews)