How Snoring Could Devastate Your Brain Health - Research Suggests Not Ignoring Sleep Issues.

Recent findings highlight the detrimental impact snoring can have on brain health, with potential consequences ranging from increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer's disease to overall cognitive decline.

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How Snoring Could Devastate Your Brain Health - Research Suggests Not Ignoring Sleep Issues.
7 Min Read May 17th, 2023

Is your spouse nudging you awake due to your thunderous snoring? Has your faithful pup abandoned the bedroom in search of peace and quiet? These telltale signs may indicate a significant snoring problem, potentially linked to sleep apnea.

In a groundbreaking study, the potential consequences of snoring and disrupted sleep have come to the forefront. Researchers have found that individuals with sleep apnea, who experience reduced time in deep sleep, may have brain biomarkers associated with a higher risk of stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and cognitive decline. 

These findings underscore the critical importance of addressing sleep-related issues to safeguard brain health and mitigate potential long-term risks, according to new research published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology

The study does not prove that these sleep disturbances cause changes in the brain or vice versa. It only shows an association.

Discovering the Alarming Link

Researchers working alongside the American Academy of Neurology have found that individuals who snore and experience compromised deep sleep may face a decline in brain health. Those with sleep apnea, a condition characterized by obstructed breathing and raucous snoring, have an elevated risk of exhibiting symptoms associated with stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and overall cognitive decline. Common indicators of this disorder include breathing interruptions, accompanied by choking, gasping sounds, and restless sleep.

The implications are alarming: for every 10% decrease in deep sleep, the brain ages as if it were 2.3 years older. Another study by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris-Cité in France revealed that 20.2% of individuals suffer from sleep apnea. Yet, only 3.5% are actively seeking treatment.

Prioritize Healthy Sleep Patterns

These findings highlight the pressing need to address snoring-related issues and prioritize healthy sleep patterns. Seeking proper diagnosis and exploring available treatments can potentially mitigate the risks associated with sleep apnea, safeguard brain health, and pave the way for restful nights and rejuvenated minds.

The measurement of brain health lies in the assessment of biomarkers within its white matter, which plays a crucial role in connecting different regions of the brain. Among these markers are minute lesions referred to as white matter hyperintensities, which are detectable on brain scans. The prevalence of these lesions tends to increase with age and uncontrolled high blood pressure, shedding light on their significance as indicators of cognitive well-being.

The study author Diego Z. Carvalho, MD, MS, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and an American Academy of Neurology member, says these biomarkers are sensitive signs of early cerebrovascular disease.

Finding that severe sleep apnea and a reduction in slow-wave sleep are associated with these biomarkers is important since there is no treatment for these changes in the brain, so we need to find ways to prevent them from happening or getting worse.

The sleep study investigated how long people spent in deep sleep, thought to be one of the best indicators of sleep quality. Deep sleep, or non-REM stage 3, is considered a crucial indicator of sleep quality. Researchers discovered that a decrease of 10 points in the percentage of slow-wave sleep was associated with an increase in white matter hyperintensities—a marker of brain health—equivalent to aging 2.3 years. This decrease was also linked to diminished axonal integrity, similar to aging three years.

More White Matter

Notably, individuals with severe sleep apnea exhibited a higher volume of white matter hyperintensities. They reduced axonal integrity in the brain compared to those with mild or moderate sleep apnea. The study accounted for factors such as age, sex, and conditions that could influence the risk of brain changes, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

White matter is a crucial component of the brain's structure, composed of millions of nerve fibers bundled together. It gets its name from its white appearance due to the presence of myelin, a fatty substance that coats and insulates the nerve fibers. White matter plays a vital role in transmitting signals between different regions of the brain, allowing for efficient communication and coordinated functioning.

Dr. Richard Isaacson, a neurologist, and neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College and the author of the book "The Alzheimer's Solution: A Breakthrough Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline," talks about the link between excess white matter and dementia.

Excess white matter is a risk factor for dementia. White matter is the tissue that connects different parts of the brain. When there is excess white matter, it can disrupt communication between different parts of the brain, which can lead to cognitive decline.

If an MRI has shown you with excess white matter, it is essential to take steps to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Dr. Carvalho said that more research is needed to determine whether sleep issues affect these brain biomarkers or vice versa.

We also need to look at whether strategies to improve sleep quality or treatment of sleep apnea can affect the trajectory of these biomarkers.

Sleep Apnea and Dementia Connection

A growing body of research suggests that sleep apnea may be a risk factor for dementia. Other studies have reviewed this connection, with one study finding that people with sleep apnea were more likely to develop dementia than people without sleep apnea. Another study found that people with sleep apnea had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The exact mechanism by which sleep apnea may contribute to dementia is not fully understood. However, many researchers feel that sleep apnea may damage the brain by depriving it of oxygen. This damage may lead to the development of dementia.

Dr. Charles Czeisler, a sleep expert at Harvard Medical School, is a world-renowned expert on sleep and its impact on health. He reminds us of the serious nature of sleep apnea and its potential to impact your health.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on your health. It can lead to daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. It can also increase your risk of developing dementia.

If you have sleep apnea, it is crucial to get treatment. Treatment for sleep apnea can help to improve your quality of life and may also help to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Sleep apnea can be effectively treated through various approaches. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, where a machine delivers a steady stream of air through a mask worn during sleep, is a common treatment. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as weight loss, positional therapy, oral appliances, and surgery may also be recommended depending on the severity and underlying causes of sleep apnea.

Dementia and Long-Term Care

As individuals age, dementia becomes a prevalent factor leading to the need for long-term health care. Unfortunately, the costs associated with professional care are substantial, leaving families unprepared and lacking a proper plan to address the cost and burdens of aging and chronic health issues.

A startling realization often comes too late for many families - traditional health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, does not cover most long-term care services. To ensure effective planning, access to quality care, and protection of assets, it is crucial for families to be proactive and well-prepared in advance. 

Quality care options, like professional in-home care, assisted living, and memory care, are getting more expensive each year. While these types of care are less costly than a nursing home, they are not cheap, although costs vary depending on where you live, according to the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator.

Reducing Risk of Dementia

If you are concerned about your risk of developing dementia, you can do several things to reduce your risk. These include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Managing stress
  • Getting enough sleep (get a sleep study if snoring)
  • Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Getting regular checkups with your doctor

Prepare Retirement for Future Long-Term Health Care

Also, be proactive with long-term care planning, as there are many reasons you may need help with daily living activities or supervision as you age. Protecting your 401(k) and other savings will preserve your lifestyle and legacy and reduce the stress and burden otherwise placed on those you love. For many families, this means adding a Long-Term Care Insurance policy to their retirement plan.

Keep in mind; however, you must get a policy in place when you still enjoy good health. Most people start getting LTC Insurance in place in their 40s or 50s, but older adults with reasonable health still have options. Seek help from a qualified specialist with access to all the top-rated insurance companies to help you navigate the many options.

Meanwhile, do something about that snoring and maintain good health now for a better quality of life.

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

The prospect of future long-term health care poses a significant concern for both your finances and your family. Whether it's the need for assistance with daily activities, supervision due to dementia, mobility issues, chronic illness, or the frailty associated with aging, the risk of requiring care intensifies each passing year. Therefore, being adequately prepared becomes crucial, ensuring access to quality care and safeguarding your assets.

While the financial implications of long-term health care are substantial, the impact on your family should not be overlooked. Family members who assume caregiving responsibilities often face immense physical, emotional, and financial challenges.

Providing long-term health care can be physically demanding and exhausting. Tasks such as assisting with personal hygiene, managing medications, and supporting mobility can take a toll on untrained caregivers, leading to increased risk of injuries, strain, and fatigue.

Emotionally, caregiving can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. Witnessing a loved one's health and/or decline, managing their complex medical needs, and dealing with the emotional impact can lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and burnout. The emotional strain can strain relationships and impact the overall well-being of family caregivers.

Adding an affordable Long-Term Care Insurance policy will give you access to quality care options, including care in your home. Your loved ones can have the time to remain family, and your income and assets can be protected, preserving your lifestyle and legacy.

What Is Long-Term Care Insurance & What Does It Cover?

The ideal time to obtain coverage is when you are in your 40s or 50s. However, affordable options are available olde you if maintain good health. A common complaint is many people think Long-Term Care Insurance is expensive. Premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies; however, very affordable options are available. For this reason, it is vital to seek the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who has access to the top-rated insurance companies and understands the underwriting and pricing differences. 

See the Real Cost of Long-Term Care Insurance.

Professional Help Ensures You Have the Right Plan at the Lowest Cost

There are several top-rated insurance companies that offer long-term care solutions. Each insurance company has its own underwriting standards, and premiums can vary dramatically between insurance companies.

LTC Insurance is custom designed. A qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will match you with the best company to save you money. A specialist will put together accurate quotes from all the top companies based on your age, health, family history, and other factors.

Accurate Answers to Long-Term Care Planning Questions

LTC NEWS has many tools and resources. These resources can help you in your research as you prepare for your future retirement and plan for the costs and burdens of aging and declining health.

Are Your Parents in Need of Assistance Now?

If your loved ones have Long-Term Care Insurance, it's essential to encourage them to utilize it without delay. While it may be tempting to save the benefits for a later time, it's not advisable to postpone accessing available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits.

When it comes to providing quality care for your parent or parents, LTC NEWS can be a valuable resource. We have curated comprehensive guides to assist you in navigating the journey, including finding reputable caregivers or long-term care facilities and receiving recommendations for developing a suitable care plan, regardless of whether your loved one has a policy in place.

Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

These four guides can be very helpful as you try to find appropriate long-term care services for a loved one:

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