You know how your brain feels foggy after “pulling an all-nighter”, or waking up many times at night with a young or sick child. But did you know that having poor quality of sleep on a regular basis can actually cause permanent damage to your brain? Most people think that feeling tired all the time is “normal”—after all, we lead busy lives with not enough hours in the day to get things done. But there is a difference between a few sleepless nights and chronic lack of proper sleep, and the difference is called Sleep Disordered Breathing. This describes a variety of diagnoses which include snoring and Sleep Apnea.
Damage to your brain
In the area of “sleep disordered breathing” (such as snoring and sleep apnea), researchers at The University of Southern California School of Dentistry in Los Angeles have concluded that lowered levels of oxygen in patients with sleep apnea causes damage to the brain with loss of both gray and white matter, changes in autonomic and motor function, and damage to higher thinking. Even after treatment, these changes in the brain remain, as in a long-term injury. In fact, the damage starts for some in childhood, when we can begin to diagnose and treat patients who suffer from snoring or sleep apnea.
In a child, poor school performance, significant weight gain, or even lack of growth can all signify sleep disorders in our children. As a dentist, I most commonly see children with poor dental development and dental crowding as signs that breathing may not be optimal. Often when we ask their parents, we hear that the child snores or even stops breathing during sleep, and is often tired and cranky during the day. These are signs of poor oxygen transfer, and brain function suffers.
If you suspect that you or your child is more tired than is “normal”, please contact your doctor or our office to find out how you can start sleeping better.