Sleep Apnea Can Cause Brain Damage

A recent review of the literature in the Journal of the American Dental Association concluded that episodes of hypoxia (low oxygen levels) due to sleep-breathing problems can lead to permanent brain damage, and can even occur in early childhood. These findings are not too surprising, with a number of studies in recent years that support this finding. What’s troubling, however, is that no one is making the possible connection between brain injury due to sleep apnea and other well known neurologic conditions such as ADHD and Alzheimer’s.

Numerous studies have shown that sleep apnea patients have more areas of injured or dead brain tissue than patients without sleep apnea. This can occur in the gray and white matter (which serve memory and cognition), and even in the lower areas that control breathing, sensation and movement. One sleep researcher at a meeting that I went to many years ago stated that in young children who undergo tonsillectomies for obstructive sleep apnea, they catch up pretty dramatically in terms of cognition, memory, reaction times and intelligence scores. But they never catch up fully with age matched control children that don’t have obstructive sleep apnea. What this implies is that there may be a slight, but permanent brain injury.

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3 thoughts on “Sleep Apnea Can Cause Brain Damage

  1. hi, i had been suffer from sleep apnea since i was a child, I was diagnosed with obstrutive sleep apnea like 7 years ago,but i was feeling bud for many years,and i had a few surgeries and in the last sleep study show no more sleep apnea,but do to the sleep apnea i feel like with depression, anxiety, and i had try it about 20 or 25 anti-depressants and some anti-anxiety, but i’m stiil feeling bud, like no consentration, no mood my muscles feel very tight but none anti- depressants or anti-anxiety work? so since I had sleep apnea for many years could I have brain damage? and how I know that, because I’m not the same person that I was, can a MRI show if there is any brain damage?do to all this problems I lost my job my marries and I have no life and since I had try so many anti-depressants and ant-anxiety is look that is not depression or anxiety?I had some MRI alredy but that show my brain is normal, but I’m still feeling tired when I wake up in the morning like if I still have sleep apnea, what are you think about my case what are you think I need to do and how you think you can help me with this? thank you…..

  2. There are a number of reasons for persistent fatigue and depression after treating the sleep apnea. First of all, you can still be having microscopic obstructions and arousals that don’t show up on a sleep study. This is what’s part of upper airway resistance syndrome. You can also be suffering from the long-term consequences of years of sleep apnea. There can be hormonal, metabolic, neurologic and biochemical changes that takes time to return to normal. Check out Dr. Teitelbaum’s website at and take the short quiz.

  3. i would like to know what causes central sleep apnea i wake up around 2 3 oclock in the morning and fall asleep only to wake a short time later not gasping but breathoing fast for air this appens all the way untill i get up. my mind feels out of touch with itself as well. Any comments would be appcieated