There are a number of reasons why it’s important to treat sleep apnea, many of them related to the fact that sleep apnea can increase your risk for severe health problems including hypertension, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.
Sometimes ignored in the wake of these potentially life-threatening complications is the fact that sleep apnea prevents those who suffer from the condition from receiving a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is especially disruptive to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the state of deep sleep associated with dreaming.
And recent research conducted at the University of California at Berkeley indicates that REM sleep is integral for reasons other than leaving you refreshed and alert. According to researchers, dreaming eases the stress associated with painful memories.
“During REM sleep, memories are being reactivated, put in perspective, and connected and integrated, but in a state where stress neurochemicals are beneficially suppressed,” said Els van der Helm, one of the study’s lead authors. The study was published in the Nov. 23 edition of Current Biology.
Research focused on 35 adult participants divided into two groups. The members of each group viewed 150 images intended to trigger emotions twice, 12 hours apart, as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner measured their brain activity.
Half of the participants looked at the images in the morning and evening, remaining awake between the viewings. The other 50 percent viewed the images in the evening and the next morning, following a full night’s sleep.
Those who slept between the viewings reported a lessened emotional reaction on second exposure to the images. Researchers also recorded brain activity while participants slept and found that certain electrical activity patterns decreased during REM sleep, indicating that reduced levels of brain neurochemicals associated with stress tempered emotional reactions.
The benefits of deep, REM sleep are just another reason to seek diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea if you suffer any symptoms of this dangerous sleep disorder.
If you experience chronic snoring or other symptoms of sleep apnea, please contact a dentist near you who specializes in sleep disorders.