Gulf War Vet Study Shows Poor Sleep Leads to Widespread Gray Matter Loss

A recently published study suggests that poor sleep can lead to widespread loss of gray matter in the brain, which may account for cognitive and memory difficulties experienced by people who get poor sleep.

Measuring Brain Matter

For this study, 144 Gulf War veterans were given surveys about their sleep quality and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure the amount of gray matter in select brain locations.

Veterans were surveyed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), a standard subjective sleep quality test. They found that the sleep quality of vets was correlated with a number of conditions, such as Gulf War Illness, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and using psychotropic medication.

Brain volume was measured in the frontal lobes, the cortical region, and the hippocampus. They found that brain matter in the frontal lobes and the cortical region were both correlated with poor sleep. Several regions in the frontal lobe were affected, including: superior and middle frontal, orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate, and frontal pole.

Researchers noted that their study was not designed to be able to make a specifically causal connection between the sleep disturbance and the brain matter losses, but the areas affected by the losses correlate to memory and cognitive problems experienced by people with poor sleep.

Nonetheless, in a press release the American Academy of Sleep Medicine highlighted the importance of the link, “This study emphasizes the importance of seeking medical help if you are troubled by the poor quality of your sleep.”

Sleep Treatment Can Help

Another shortcoming of this particular study is that it doesn’t show anything about how treatment for sleep disorders like sleep apnea might impact your brain. However, other studies have shown that sleep apnea treatment can reduce subjective symptoms, such as poor memory, mood problems, and cognitive difficulties.

If you are experiencing these types of problems as a result of poor sleep, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha to learn how sleep apnea treatment might be able to help.