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Sleepless Nights? They May Cause More Than Just Fatigue
Disrupted Sleep May Lead to Oxygen Deprivation in the Brain
Another possible explanation for the association between sleep and dementia is related to the levels of oxygen in the brain. Studies have found that there is an increased risk of dementia when the brain does not get a sufficient supply of oxygen. When an individual has healthy sleep patterns, their body maintains an ample supply of oxygen throughout the night. In fact, we often think of oxygen deprivation as a side effect of asthma attacks, carbon monoxide poisoning, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
However, oxygen deprivation can also be caused by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person does not breathe normally while sleeping. When individuals with sleep apnea experience decreased oxygen levels regularly, it significantly increases their risk for developing dementia.
Nevertheless, individuals who experienced disrupted sleep, but did not experience decreased oxygen level did not show an increase in the risk of developing dementia. This led researchers to conclude that it may be the oxygen deprivation that was the significant factor. The lack of oxygen during sleep may provoke dementia to develop more quickly.
What does this all mean?
So, does this mean that if you do not sleep enough you will absolutely develop dementia? No. However, it could mean you are at an increased risk. If you feel like you are regularly sleeping less than you should, or if you think you may have sleep apnea, it is important to talk to your medical provider. And most of all, prioritize sleep as a healthy habit in your life. Your brain will thank you.