Understanding the Difference Between CTE and Sleep Apnea

If you are a sports athlete, particularly in the lines of a heavy contact engagement such as combat sports, hockey, or football, you might be putting yourself in a lot of risks sustaining impactful blows to the head. Continuous and cumulative instances of these would mean a world of difference in your life. The consequences can be malignant, and you will never know when they are about to strike.

There is a silver lining though, as certain sleeping disorders can tell you exactly if you have a more severe brain condition than just having a plain sleeping disorder. In most cases, if you are under the weather of sleep apnea, it is always a precaution to have your head examined further.

Sleep apnea, in retrospect, is a prevalent sleeping condition, particularly in the United States where about 22 million Americans are suffering from it. This is one of the reasons why the CPAP machine and CPAP cleaner industries are becoming popular.

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Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

One of the rising trends of head trauma disease nowadays is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or simply shortened as CTE. This neurodegenerative brain disease is attributed to repeated blows to the head. Also known as “punch-drunk syndrome,” CTE is common to people who engage in heavy contact sports, such as hockey, boxing, or football. One common thing about these sports is that the athletes who compete here are prone to major body contact which results in traumas all over their bodies, head included.

 CTE Symptoms

CTE is like many other brain-related traumas such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease when it comes to symptoms. These are:
  1. Memory loss
  2. Confusion
  3. Personality changes (including depression and suicidal thoughts)
  4. Erratic behavior (including aggression)
  5. Impaired attention to detail
  6. Impaired balance and motor skills

How Many Hits to the Head Does It Take?

There is no evidence that suggests that a single concussion increases the risk of CTE. Also, it is noted that not everyone who has recurring concussions will develop CTE. However, researchers strongly believe that CTE is most likely to occur to a person who has suffered many traumatic brain injuries.

The exact causes of CTE are still covered in cobwebs, but there are groups of people who are at a higher risk, and these are:
  1. Military veterans with a history of repeated head trauma, such as blast injuries.
  2. Boxers, martial artists, and American footballers due to heavy hits to the head.
  3. People with a history of repeated head injuries.

CTE research has primarily been conducted amongst former football players mainly because of the sheer physical nature of their profession and in one Harvard study, nearly 3% of the former football players surveyed confirmed that they have a CTE diagnosis. However, doctors may be overlooking a more common source of cognitive impairment. 

A Sleep Disorder Behind Cognitive Impairment

A potential case of CTE is a ripple effect waiting to happen because it can also trigger other chronic ailments such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, obesity, and the ever-exasperating sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea, like CTE, commonly triggers cognitive symptoms. As we all know, sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which the muscles in the back of the throat collapse, preventing the oxygen from getting to the lungs due to soft tissue blockage. This condition ultimately leads to poor cognitive performance.

Patients with CTE may not notice the connection between their current situation and poor sleep, therefore you should pay attention to sleep apnea with more intent. If you can somehow treat your sleep apnea regularly, then perhaps you are already in the right direction in managing your CTE.

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Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  1. Loud snoring
  2. Gasping for air during sleep
  3. Difficulty concentrating during the day
  4. Waking up with a dry mouth
  5. Forgetfulness
  6. Morning headache
  7. Difficulty staying asleep
  8. Excessive daytime sleepiness
  9. Mood changes 

Diagnosis and Treatment

For the time being, CTE is an uncharted territory for researchers and physicians hence formal clinical guidelines for diagnosing and managing CTE are not written in stone. When CTE is suspected, a thorough medical history, along with mental testing, neurological exams, brain imaging, and other diagnostic tests may be used to rule out possible causes.

But doctors can perform a certain recourse, and that is treating the treatable conditions, such as sleep apnea. Currently, we have several treatments for sleep apnea, and some of them are:
  1. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Commonly shortened as CPAP, this therapy is the most common relief for sleep apnea. This treatment uses a CPAP device that pumps pressurized ambient air through a mask while you sleep. If you are a frequent user of the therapy, make sure to clean your CPAP device and supplies first with a high-performing CPAP cleaner to make sure you are inhaling safe and clean air.
  2. Oral appliances. Oral appliances are good substitutes for CPAP if you are feeling some sort of discomfort from the latter. These devices are designed to open your throat by bringing your jaw forward which can relieve snoring and mild sleep apnea.
  3. Surgery. If all else fails, you may be recommended to undergo surgery that focuses on making your breathing a whole lot easier. This includes, but not limited to, tissue removal or shrinkage, jaw repositioning, or creating a new passageway.
  4. Lifestyle changes. Aside from these treatments, your doctor will persuade you to undergo lifestyle changes to help you bring down the severity of your sleep apnea. These may include losing weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet, proper sleeping position, and minimizing alcohol and smoking. 

Final Thoughts

What we have learned is that CTE and sleep apnea are not necessarily different, but they are correlated. More so, sleep apnea is one of the by-products of CTE therefore if there is one hole that you can work your way out of, it is sleep apnea.

Are you already undergoing CPAP therapy? Best to clean your device and supplies first with our top-of-the-line CPAP cleaner. Interested in getting one? Make sure to check out our page and find out more.

 

Sources
Mayo Clinic
Alzheimer’s Association
The CPAP Shop

VirtuClean 2.0

Images
Valley Sleep Center
Sleep Education

Advancing Youth Health

 

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