How Sleep-Disordered Breathing Can Severely Damage Your Body and Brain –

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a broad term describing breathing problems that occur when a person is asleep. It can range from chronic loud snoring to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In the United States, nearly 3 in 10 men from 30 – 70 years old suffer from moderate to severe SDB. If left untreated, these types of sleep-disordered breathing may cause irreparable damage to the brain.

In this article, we look at the forms, harmful effects, and signs of SDB.

Forms of SDB in Sleep Apnea

Experts define sleep apnea as a disorder marked by very shallow breathing or repeated interruptions in a person’s breathing while sleeping. Research reveals that this disordered breathing pattern can occur hundreds of times per night, often without the person’s recollection. It happens when the person’s airway collapses and oxygen is cut off from the lungs.

Sleep apnea manifests in three ways:

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In obstructive sleep apnea, the brain tells the body to breathe, but because there is airway obstruction, the person has difficulty breathing. The obstruction happens when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep. The obstruction also makes the chest and diaphragm muscles work harder to open the obstructive airway and pull some air into the lungs.

2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

In this type of sleep apnea, the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. The struggle in breathing is not caused by any airway obstruction but by a disruption in the central nervous system. The disconnect between the brain and the lungs results in a state where the body forgets to breathe.

3. Complex Sleep Apnea (CompSA)

In complex sleep apnea, the person suffers from a combination of OSA and CSA. CompSA sufferers experience a partial or full collapse of the throat resulting in an obstruction. Also, the brain fails to send signals to organs that regulate breathing.

Harmful Effects of SDB on the Brain

Sleep apnea sufferers fail to go through regenerative sleep cycles completely. Instead, breathing stops in mid-cycle for about ten seconds for up to 120 times or more in one hour. As a result, the brain starves for oxygen. Oxygen deprivation damages the brain. In some cases, the injury is so severe that repair is unlikely.

SDB is known to cause damage to the following parts of the brain:

Medullary and Pontine

These sites are responsible for some respiratory and cardiovascular functions. The injury caused by SDB can lead to blood pressure and respiratory issues.


This area of the brain is responsible for metabolic and hormonal regulation. The injury here may cause disruptions in hormonal secretions and can lead to modification of insulin production. The imbalances may contribute to the development of diabetes.


Experts associate this site with memory. Damage in this area can lead to short-term memory impairments

Symptoms of SDB

Watch out for these signs of sleep-disordered breathing. You or someone you know might be suffering from “sleep apnea.”If you or someone you know may be suffering from sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea, get professional help immediately. A dentist specializing in sleep medicine can help with this disorder.