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Poor Sleep Quality May Increase Risk of Stroke and Alzheimer's disease

Sleep plays a vital role in our physical and mental well-being––contrary to the traditional belief of sleep being a passive activity. Numerous studies have revealed that while the body is at rest, the brain remains highly active.

A recent study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that individuals who have shorter deep-sleep span may have a higher risk of stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and cognitive decline. 

Although the study does not establish a causal relationship between sleep apnea and brain changes, it does demonstrate a correlation

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by recurrent interruptions in breathing during sleep. If you experience loud snoring and feel tired even after a full night's rest, there is a possibility that you may have sleep apnea.

The study's lead author, Diego Z. Carvalho from the Mayo Clinic, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, discussed brain biomarkers that reflect the health of the brain's white matter and stated that these biomarkers are sensitive indicators of early cerebrovascular disease. Dr. Carvalho explained that currently, there are no treatments available for these brain changes, underscoring the importance of finding ways to prevent or mitigate them.

The study included 140 participants with obstructive sleep apnea, with an average age of 73 years, without signs of cognitive issues or dementia. Among the participants, 34% had mild sleep apnea, 32% had moderate sleep apnea, and 34% had severe sleep apnea.

The study focused on the duration of deep sleep – a key indicator of sleep quality. The findings revealed that those with severe sleep apnea harbored a higher volume of white matter hyperintensities compared to those with mild or moderate sleep apnea. Additionally, they exhibited reduced axonal integrity, which affects the connections between nerve cells in the brain.

Sleep serves as a biomarker for the health of the brain's white matter, a crucial region responsible for connecting different parts of the brain.

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