What’s Happening to Your Sleep-Disordered Breathing Child’s Brain
We know that the brain is the central authority for everything in our bodies. It controls voluntary and involuntary actions to ensure that our bodies function correctly. Our brains need exercise, fuel, and sleep, and when one of these is lacking, we don’t perform at our best. That’s why the fragmented sleep your child gets each night impacts their brain so significantly. That and the lack of oxygen could be damaging brain tissues.
The blood-brain barrier is a network of blood vessels and tissues protecting the brain from harmful substances. It’s semi-permeable which means that some substances can get through to the brain like water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and general anesthetics.
While studying the brains of those recently diagnosed with sleep apnea but untreated and healthy individuals, researchers found that the blood-brain barrier in the former was more permeable than in the latter. They attribute this to a lack of oxygen and high blood pressure caused by apneic episodes. This means that those with childhood sleep apnea have a weaker barrier protecting their brains, allowing harmful substances to damage brain matter.
Sleep Cycle Disruptions
As your child sleeps, they pass through different stages, just as you do. The last two stages of REM and deep sleep are crucial for brain health and, in children, development.
As your child sleeps, their brain is doing the hard work of storing memories, categorizing new knowledge, releasing hormones, repairing cells, and cleansing itself of toxic chemicals produced during the day. If your child never progresses through the stages of sleep because they are constantly awakened due to the lack of oxygen, their brains don’t perform these important tasks. Toxic chemical waste continues to accumulate on the brain, damaging it.