Obstructive sleep apnea can be destructive to your brain. But new research shows that CPAP therapy repairs the damage.
What is obstructive sleep apnea? OSA is a chronic disease that involves repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. These breathing pauses can prevent your body from supplying enough oxygen to the brain.
In severe cases this lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage. Signs of this damage include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness.
The new study involved 17 men with severe, untreated sleep apnea. Brain scans showed that they had a significant reduction in white matter – “the subway of the brain.” The men with severe sleep apnea also showed signs of impaired thinking, mood and alertness.
Each member of the study group was treated with CPAP therapy for 12 months. CPAP provides gently pressurized air through a mask that you wear during sleep. The airflow keeps your airway open and makes it easier to breathe.
Results show that one year of CPAP therapy led to an almost complete reversal of white matter damage. Treatment also improved cognitive scores, mood, alertness and quality of life.
In a previous study the authors found that severe sleep apnea also causes damage to gray matter in the brain. Three months of CPAP therapy helped repair this damage too.