Researchers find link between sleep apnea and dementia


August 10, 2011

Sleep apnea occurs when the throat collapses during sleep, and can be the direct cause of snoring, gasping for air, waking up in the middle of the night and feeling tired upon waking up. Many people are unaware that they have the disorder, and roughly one-third of the study patients had undiagnosed, and untreated apnea.

Sleep apnea may be an indicator of dementia, according to a new study by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The scientists monitored the health of elderly women who, at the beginning of the study had no signs of dementia. Participants who had sleep apnea were 80 percent more likely to develop the degenerative brain disease than those without breathing problems.

“We were surprised that the effect persisted after considering education levels, other health problems and other possible reasons,” Dr. Susan Redline, one of the researchers, told The Boston Channel.

The risk of developing sleep apnea increases with age, as does dementia. If an older adult exhibits signs of either one, a personal emergency response system may be a good investment to keep them safe.