Researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center have unveiled that heavy snoring and sleep apnea could be associated with memory loss and cognitive impairment. Health records of more than 2,000 patients between the ages of 50 and 90 have been reviewed by the researchers. They classified the patients as either free of any memory problems, having early forms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or having Alzheimer’s disease. The medical histories of people with untreated sleep-disordered breathing versus those without sleep-disordered breathing were also examined and compared. Comparison was also made between those who have untreated sleep-disordered breathing and those with treated sleep breathing problems.
The study revealed that those who suffered sleep apnea developed MCI and Alzheimer’s an average of 10 years before as compared to those without the condition. Specifically the results indicated that people having sleep-disordered breathing problems developed mild-cognitive decline at an average age of 77 whereas those who did not have sleep breathing problems developed such a condition at an average age of 90. Study author Ricardo Osorio, MD, with the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, stated “Abnormal breathing patterns during sleep such as heavy snoring and sleep apnea are common in the elderly, affecting about 52 percent of men and 26 percent of women.”
Osorio added “The age of onset of MCI for people whose breathing problems were treated was almost identical to that of people who did not have any breathing problems at all. Given that so many older adults have sleep breathing problems, these results are exciting — we need to examine whether using CPAP could possibly help prevent or delay memory and thinking problems.” Researchers stated that there is simple screening that can identify the problem. A home sleep test could make the diagnosis and there are treatment options. The study has been published in the medical journal Neurology.