Snoring is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a new Harvard research suggests.
Daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea is also linked to impaired attention, memory and thinking in people who are genetically susceptible to the degenerative condition, the research adds.
Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a general term to describe pauses in breathing during sleep that restrict oxygen supply to the body. At the most severe end of the spectrum is obstructive sleep apnea, which can itself range in severity.
The researchers looked at data regarding sleep in 1,750 middle aged and older adults. They then looked at whether problems with sleep breathing were associated with their performance in cognitive testing.
Not so fast?
Researchers found a link between certain measures of sleep-disorder breathing and worse attention, short term memory and information processing speed. However, there was no link with overall cognitive function.
Some of the links were stronger in snoring people who carried a form of a gene called APOE-e4, which is a known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
But in conclusion, this study does not really prove that sleep-disorder breathing is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This study did not specifically look at whether people developed dementia or not. It only looked at their performance on cognitive tests at a single point in time.
Professor of Sleep Medicine Dr. Susan Redline said: “Given the lack of effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, our results support the potential for sleep disordered breathing screening and treatment to reduce dementia risk.”
Researchers hope the findings will support sleep based treatments in people at-risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The researchers concluded that their results “suggest that more severe overnight [low blood oxygen levels] and sleepiness may be related to poorer cognitive function, especially attention, concentration, and process speed in middle-aged to older adults, and that the risk is greater among carriers of the APOE-ε4 alleles, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.”