Study Reveals Sleep Loss May Lead to Lost Neurons

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lack of sleep could result in irreversible physical damage, including the loss of brain cells. That’s the conclusion of a recent University of Pennsylvania study, “Extended Wakefulness: Compromised Metabolics in and Degeneration of Locus Ceruleus Neurons,” published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, Sigrid Veasey, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and a member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, says, “This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons.”

Simply stated, the findings of this study go against the commonly held notion that missed sleep can be made up just by sleeping more at other times. In fact, the study suggests that extended periods of time without proper sleep could result in loss of neurons that are essential for alertness and optimal cognition.

“The findings of this study are significant to all of us in the sleep industry. It serves as a strong reminder that individuals with any type of sleep issue shouldn’t ignore the problem. A lack of sleep could be causing permanent harm to the brain,” says Shad Morris, DMD, a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and CEO of Premier Sleep Solutions LLC. (Morris was not involved in the Penn Medicine study.)

Morris said his company, Premier Sleep Solutions, specializes in treating individuals with sleep apnea who have had problems with their continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. Premier Sleep Solutions offers oral appliance therapy as an alternative to CPAP.

“Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, fitting and use of a specially designed oral appliance. This appliance maintains an open, unobstructed airway in the throat when worn during sleep. Oral appliances are similar in appearance to bleach trays or mouthpieces, and unlike CPAP devices, are not connected to any type of external apparatus, nor do they require masks that touch the face. For many patients, oral appliances can be as effective as CPAP, yet much more comfortable,” Morris adds.

Dentists such as Morris who have experience in oral appliance therapy are most familiar with the various designs of appliances and can help determine which is best suited for the patient’s specific needs. A board-certified sleep medicine physician must first provide a diagnosis and recommend the most effective treatment approach. A dentist with experience in treating sleep apnea may then provide treatment and follow-up.

Most insurance companies now cover oral appliance therapy and the oral appliances. Morris noted that Medicare is leading the way relative to standard of care within the industry.

For more information about oral appliances or to schedule a consultation for a patient, please contact Premier Sleep Solutions in San Antonio at 210-404-4326 or visit the company’s website at Premier Sleep Solutions has offices in San Antonio, Texas; Newport Beach, California; Salt Lake City, Utah, and St. George, Utah. The San Antonio office is located at 4242 Medical Drive, Suite 7100, San Antonio, TX 78229.