People with breathing problems during sleep – called sleep apnea – develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) a decade earlier finds a new study published today (15th April 2015) in the Journal Neurology.
The medical histories of 2,470 people aged 55 to 90 taking part in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) study were reviewed for the development of MCI or Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were also asked to report whether they suffered from sleep apnea and whether or not they received treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine during the night.
On average, people with sleep apnea were diagnosed with MCI in their 70s, a decade earlier than people without sleep breathing problems. The relationship between having sleep apnea and the age of diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the study was much less clear.
Twelve people in the study who developed MCI reported treating their sleep apnea with a CPAP machine and, on average, they developed MCI at the same age as those who did not report any sleep breathing problems. These findings suggest that use of a CPAP machine should be investigated further as a way to delay the onset of cognitive decline in people with sleep apnea.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘Most of us don’t think of snoring as something to be concerned about but frequent, loud snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea – a disorder that affects breathing during sleep. In this study, those who reported a sleep apnea developed cognitive decline a decade earlier than those without sleep breathing problems, but the link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease was much less clear.
‘Several earlier studies have shown that the quantity and quality of sleep we get can have an impact on our cognitive health and as sleeping disorders are common among the elderly, it is vital that we see more research into this area. Interestingly, the small number of people who received treatment in this study did not experience early cognitive decline, suggesting treatment could be an effective way to preserve cognitive health for longer.’