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Women who snore have more severe brain damage

KOMPAS.com - Snoring in women turns out to be more brain damaging comparing to men. Prof William Dement said: “I cannot find any other health disorder in medical world which is so common, and yet very life threatening though easily identified, and very easy to treat, other than sleep apnea!”

Snoring is already considered common in our society though unknowingly, its effects are very severe, which range from high blood pressure, blood sugar increasing level, cardiovascular disease, depression, death, and brain damage. One of the failures in human evolution might be the loosening of respiratory track during sleep. As the result from the narrowing of the respiratory tract,oxygen flow from and to lungs is disturbed. No air can go through! The absence of breathing (apnea) has been the cause of many health diseases.

The shortness of breath during sleep, sleep apnea, occurs periodically at night. Everytime the breathing is disrupted, the oxygen level decreases and internal chest pressure increases, and causing the heart to work more vigorously.Each time the breathing clogs, people who suffer from this would be awake briefly as if they are choked, in order to be able to breath since the awake episode only occurs for a brief moment. Its effect to the quality of life nevertheless is quite serious. For no reason at all, people who snore are always sleepy. The ability to concentrate, to analyze and also to memorize is decreasing, with mood swing as well.

Women who snore

People who suffer from sleep apnea are estimated about 5% from total population. Regardless of the sex, age, and weight, anyone could snore and has sleep apnea. Numerous researches have been conducted on this snoring subject. Most of them focus on its effects on serious diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and stroke. Many also highlight on its effects to certain categories, such as in pregnancy, children, adult men, or women. Yes, women snore! Women who suffer from sleep apnea are not as many as men. It is estimated that the amount of women who snore is half as many as men. However, they have different characteristics. For example, the level of severity on breath pause index shows that men have more severe level than women and therefore its effect is more disruptive as well on cardio and blood vessels health in men.  On the other hand, the psychological effect of sleep apnea is more apparent in women, which are depression and anxiety.

Snoring causes brain damage

A group of researchers in UCLA has published their research on SLEEP 2008 journal which shows numerous damages on certain parts of the brain of people with sleep apnea.
By using brain image tool, researchers found that people who snore and have sleep apnea suffer from white mass damages on certain parts of the brain which organize memory and mood.  
White mass is brain fibers which are covered by white myelin. This group of researchers also published another publication in Neuroscience Letters on the same year. It was discovered that people who snore also undergo changes in their mamilary bodies. Mamilary body is a part of limbic system which is responsible for human cognitive and mood functions.
Brain Damage in Women

The latest research which is published on SLEEP December 2012 journal tried to see the effects of brain damage on women who snore. This might be the first research which tried to observe the effects of snoring in women. All other researches tried to observe the effects on brain damage on men, or both men and women. By having examined the difference of snoring effects, sleep apnea on men and women, experts also would like to observe the brain damage associated with the person’s sex. They also assess the white mass on brain nerve and compare the results among subjects who snore and who don’t snore, particularly on men and women. Researchers observe 10 snoring women and 20 snoring men who were just diagnosed with sleep apnea in UCLA sleep laboratory, along with 20 women and 30 men as controlled subjects. Aside from shortness of breath during sleep, subjects are also observed by their sleepiness condition and psychological condition as well by filling out questionnaires. Lastly, a brain image was conducted using MRI.
Even though there are less women who snore compared to men, the negative effects are more severe in women.Brain damage caused by sleep apnea turns out to be more severe in women compared to men who suffer the same symptoms. The frontal brain area of women with sleep apnea is damaged, while this area is vital for mood and decision making functions. The psychological assessment on women who snore also shows the higher level of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, experts hypothesized that brain damage occurs due to the lessening oxygen level while sleeping.However, other possibilities must be taken into consideration as well, such as depression and anxiety which increase symphatetic activities and inflamation cells and caused nerve damage, or even nerve damage which causes the increasing level of depression and anxiety in women who snore. There are still a lot of factors that should be examined more thoroughly.

What is there for us to learn?

It is obvious that brain damage is one of the causes of snoring with shortness of breath while sleeping. But latest research also shows that the effects of sleep apnea on brain damage in women turn out to be more severe compared to men. This results should show doctors to be more concerned about snoring in women.Women who complain of easily fatigued, sleepy, depression, and snoring, should receive treatment priority.Sleep examination as main diagnosis tool to detect whether a snoring is dangerous or not should be conducted prior to treatment.

The shortness of breath level should also be assessed through the same examination. Treatment, be it from teeth aid, CPAP, or even surgery can be taken into consideration as well, depending on the patient’s condition. As for now, treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the number one choice for patients. The use of CPAP has been proven to be able to reduce blood pressure, fix heart condition, and control blood sugar level as well. Unfortunately, brain damage caused by sleep apnea is permanent and can’t be reserved even though being treated. CPAP only prevent further thing, which is one more thing to consider in order for sleep apnea treatment should be done as soon as possible. Snoring is no longer a laughing matter. Warn your bestfriend or relatives who snore. You save them! dr. Andreas Prasadja, RPSGT


 


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