Sleep is a necessary part of good brain healthBy Veita Bland, M.D. / August 11, 2023
Over the years, the common medical condition of snoring has been a punchline for many jokes. People often joke about how loud it is. For example, television viewers may have recently seen a commercial featuring a popular former basketball player and his actress wife discussing the benefits of a particular mattress company. At one point in the commercial, the wife states that her husband snores like a rhinoceros each and every night. He, of course, says he does not hear it, but eventually gives in by saying he will work on his snoring. This is indeed a catchy and cute commercial, but snoring is truly something we should not be joking and laughing about. It is a serious problem that can affect the health of the snorer and the sanity of the person listening to the snoring. There are countless cases where snoring has affected the relationships of couples, but I digress. Today, I want to address the health of the snorer.
Snoring is a noisy, harsh, grunting sound that occurs in a person’s breathing while they are asleep. It is caused by vibrations of the tissues of the mouth, throat and sinuses and it is an indication of resistance or narrowing of the upper airway. There are several reasons for it. We often see it in people with allergies, as people gain weight, relaxation of the tongue, nicotine withdrawal, alcohol consumption and other anatomical reasons. The noise is maddening but the effect of the snoring is the real problem.
Researchers with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris-Cite’ in Paris, France have found that people, who snore can be aging their brains by years and hurting their brain health. Often snorers are not getting deep sleep and as is well known; good and restful sleep is one of the determinants of longevity.
The researchers noted that loud snoring and obstructive breathing such as that seen with sleep apnea can lead to higher chances of exhibiting signs of stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease or a decline in cognitive ability.
As we age, we develop lesions in the white matter of our brain. We see this also when blood pressure is not controlled. People with severe sleep apnea have more of these lesions in the white matter of the brain than people with less severe sleep apnea.
Deep sleep is a hot topic that many people measure with a wrist monitor or ring monitors. Deep sleep is one of the best indicators of sleep quality. The Paris research study showed that for every 10 percent decrease in deep sleep, there was an increase in white matter lesions in the brain. The researchers said this finding is equivalent to two to three years of brain aging.
So, snoring is a very serious problem that affects many people. Take the time to discuss your sleep problems, especially snoring or concerns about sleep apnea with your healthcare provider.
As I have often said, sleep is not valued as much as it should be. A good night’s sleep is not a luxury. It is indeed a necessary part of good brain health. After all, what are you without a good functioning brain?
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.