Do you ever wake up feeling tired? Have you been told that you snore? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders among adults. One of two major types of sleep apnea, obstructive apnea occurs when you stop breathing while asleep because something is blocking your airway, and it can be very dangerous to sufferers. And, interestingly, the impact of sleep apnea on health can be quite extensive. As recent studies of both obstructive and central sleep apnea demonstrate, the condition may be linked to memory problems and may even mimic Alzheimer’s disease’s impact on the brain.
Sleep Apnea: The Basics
We know that obstructive sleep apnea is very common among adults, but we don’t have particularly good data on the condition, with estimates ranging from 9-38%. However, we do know that men, older adults, and overweight individuals are more likely to suffer from this form of sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea, a form of the condition characterized by the failure of the brain to trigger breathing during sleep, is more commonly linked to other health conditions, ranging from congestive heart failure to various neurological diseases, and may occur at any age. For example, children with Angelman syndrome are prone to both central and obstructive sleep apnea, as are young people with Prader-Willi syndrome.
Sleep And The Brain
Sleep is an important function of the brain, and our brain’s activity changes immensely while we sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, or sleep poorly, though, the consequences extend far beyond simple fatigue. Given this, scientists studying the impact of sleep, or a lack thereof, on the brain have turned to obstructive sleep apnea patients as a sample group, and one thing they’ve discovered is that many people with obstructive sleep apnea demonstrate the same brain changes seen in Alzheimer’s patients, despite the fact that they were never diagnosed with any form of dementia.
Even before this study of sleep apnea patients, it was clear to researchers and doctors that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia were closely linked to sleep, and particularly to circadian rhythm disorders. As recent brain research has shown, Alzheimer’s patients often experience serious sleep disruption, which can cause them to get up and wander in the middle of the night and can complicate their care. Further research into the vulnerability of the primary circadian clock gene (Clk) to neurodegenerative disease is still underway.
Other Theories And Research Avenues
In addition to the research showing neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques in sleep apnea patients’ brains, ongoing work seeks to understand why these develop in this patient set. One working hypothesis suggests that insufficient deep sleep among obstructive sleep apnea patients may interfere with the body’s ability to clear beta-amyloid and other waste from the brain. Looking ahead, if researchers can determine why these patients develop plaques but do not develop dementia symptoms, this could offer valuable insights for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
Patients often dismiss sleep apnea as snoring or as a condition that just makes them feel a little tired, but the more we learn about it, the more concerning the long-term effects of this condition become. Just as researchers are taking the condition seriously as a topic of study, then, patients must take its management serious to mitigate its medical consequences.
What Interferes with Successful Breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding is ideal, it comes with many difficulties new parents might face.
After experiencing the intensity of labor and delivery, many new parents are left exhausted. Despite this fatigue and surviving pospartum, new parents soon learn the importance of managing the needs of an infant. Putting aside their own desires, parents learn to quickly adapt.
Exhaustion and recovery are not the only things that discourage parents from breastfeeding. There are a variety of other woes that can make it difficult for a lactating parent to continue to choose this option.
While 83 percent of women breastfeed at the beginning of postpartum, there is a drastic reduction by 6 months, resulting in only 56% of babies still being breastfed.
When a lactating woman’s milk comes in, she may experience intense pain and discomfort. The breasts typically become overly filled with milk because they have not yet regulated their supply. This engorgement can continue throughout the breastfeeding journey for a variety of reasons.
If the baby’s schedule changes, a woman’s breasts can become overly full. If the parent misses a feeding, breasts can experience discomfor which can lead to breastfeeding infection. If a woman becomes preoccupied at work and does not make time to pump, she can experience discomfort.
If breast engorgement is not treated properly, milk ducts can become blocked, and if a woman does not work to move the milk through her breasts (via feeding her baby, pumping, or expressing the milk), this engorgement can lead to further problems and may cause clogged milk ducts.
One of the biggest concerns beyond the pain a woman experiences with engorgement is infection. This is known as mastitis, and leads to a woman experiencing not only breast pain and warm breast tissue, but also flu-like symptoms that come with fever, chills, headache, and further exhaustion.
In order to help prevent infection, regular feedings are essential. Often, the best mastitis treatment, at least for early symptoms, is to massage the breast in a warm shower and express the extra milk.
Furthermore, by working with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), parents can have a great resource on how to best deal with, treat, and alleviate these problems.
Not only is an IBCLC a great resource in helping prevent breast infection, but a great source for your breastfeeding journey to encourage and educate you in best practices.
The best way to achieve breastfeeding success is to utilize the many tools that an IBCLC offers.
To exclusively breastfeed your baby can be quite overwhelming and exhausting. Between nightly feedings, cluster feedings, and pumping sessions for working mothers, breastfeeding is difficult to maintain. Unless a woman is properly supported by her family, friends, and workplace, the chances that a woman will continue to breastfeed are significantly impacted.
Culture also impacts the likelihood of a baby being breastfed beyond 6 months. The CDC discovered that parents in the Southeast United States are less likely to breastfeed their children past six months. This was in contrast to the Northwest, where business policies and the culture is more breastfeeding-friendly and supportive.
Despite the nutritional benefits afforded to a breastfed baby, there are many obstacles that can be discouraging for parents on their breastfeeding journey. From exhaustion to pain to lack of supoort, parents have many reasons to give up.
To increase your chances of success, surround yourself with supportive individuals, reach out to an IBCLC, also known as lactation consultants, and gain the necessary tools required to provide your child with the healthiest option available – you!
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