Snoring, sleep apnea tied to cognitive decline
There is new concern linking snoring and sleep apnea to cognitive decline. A new study published in the journal Neurology suggests that abnormal breathing patterns are associated with a premature decline in thinking and memory skills, however treating snoring with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may delay the decline.
Researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center analyzed medical records of 2,470 people between the ages of 55 and 90 and divided them into three groups: those with Alzheimer’s, those with mild memory or cognitive impairment (MCI) and those with no memory or thinking impairments. Next, the researchers assessed the data for reported breathing problems during sleep and whether or not the participants received treatment for these problems.
The findings revealed that the participants with abnormal breathing were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment at an average age of 77, while non-snorers were diagnosed at an average age of 90. Additionally, researchers found that snorers were more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an average age of 83, while non-snorers were diagnosed about 5 years later. Further research revealed that treatment with CPAP – a mask that supplies pressurized oxygen into the user’s throat – reversed the link to cognitive decline.
In the future, the researchers plan to focus on how CPAP treatment affects memory and thinking by observing markers of brain cell death and deterioration caused respiratory issues while sleeping. Such research is important, as more than 18 million people in the U.S have sleep apnea, and about 90 million are snorers – with 50 percent of heavy snorers also having sleep apnea.