This annoying sleep habit may have a dangerous effect on brain function.
Scientists discovered that sleep apnea – which typically results in snoring – cuts off blood and oxygen to the brain, which can lead to continued cognitive decline.
Researchers gathered 27 men between the ages of 35 to 70 who were recently diagnosed with mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is when an individual repeatedly stops and starts breathing while asleep. Besides the disorder, the participants were otherwise healthy.
Seven men — who did not suffer from sleep apnea and had similar health and education backgrounds — were also part of the King’s College London study, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Sleep.
Each participant wore special skull caps while sleeping to allow scientists to measure brain waves, in addition to monitoring blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing, eye and leg movements and cognitive function.
Researchers learned that individuals with severe sleep apnea were less aware, less focused, had short-term memory issues and an inability to meet set goals in daily life.
Those with sleep apnea on the milder side had greater cognitive function, the researchers noted.
The findings concluded that those with serious sleep apnea could risk the loss of brainpower, which the authors noted has been linked to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and Type 2 diabetes.
The authors suggested that these results could be due to the low oxygen and high carbon dioxide level in the blood, changes to blood flow to the brain, and inflammation in the brain.
Eventually, in most severe cases this could lead to dementia since memory loss and the inability to think clearly was found in individuals suffering from OSA.
“This complex interplay is still poorly understood, but it’s likely that these lead to widespread neuroanatomical and structural changes in the brain and associated functional cognitive and emotional deficits,” lead author Dr. Ivana Rosenzweig, a neuropsychiatrist, said in a statement.
“Our study is a proof of concept. However, our findings suggest that co-morbidities likely worsen and perpetuate any cognitive deficits caused directly by OSA itself,” Rosenzweig continued.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be a life-threatening condition with symptoms that include restless sleep, loud snoring and headaches in the morning. Those suffering from the disorder may be more prone to naps.
Weight loss and wearing a mask in bed to blow air into the back of the threat are among some preventive measures taken for individuals suffering from OSA, StudyFinds.org noted.