A majority of cases of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed for long periods of time in America, which scientists and researchers have linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke among other health issues. Diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea is essential for overall health. Treatment options for sleep apnea are generally BiPap or CPAP masks, which allow continuous air to flow through airways and prevent apneas throughout the night.
A new study featured in the Journal of Neurophysiology “highlights the effectiveness of CPAP treatment in reducing one of the most significant health issues [heart disease] associated with obstructive sleep apnea.”
Australian researchers conducted the study and say their biggest takeaway was the finding that CPAP treatment reduced the nerve activity issues by restoring the brain stem function to normal. While the study was small with just 13 sleep apnea participants, the results were significant. Participants were evaluated before the study and again after six months of CPAP use.
“These data strongly suggest that functional and anatomical changes within the brain stem, which we believe underlie the elevated sympathetic activity in individuals with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, can be restored to healthy levels by CPAP treatment,” said the researchers from the University of Sydney researchers.
Sleep apnea is characterized by numerous instances where a patient is rendered unable to breathe, due to blocked airways. The airways constrict and/or collapse, not allowing air to get through to the brain, which is why many issues linked to sleep apnea have to do with brain function. CPAP machines and BiPAP masks deliver a steady airflow through the airways, keeping them open. About half of the people using CPAP, however, stop using it within one to three weeks. This study points to the need for treatment which will hopefully lead to that number decreasing over time.