Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Treating Sleep Apnea Helps Alzheimer's Patients

Because impaired cognition is a symptom of sleep apnea, it makes sense that Alzheimer's patients who suffer from sleep apnea are likely to see cognitive improvement if treated for their apnea. A recent study by researchers at the University of California confirmed the effect. Researchers also recommended sleep apnea treatment as a way to improve the independence of Alzheimer's patients.

Although the study was small, with only 52 subjects, and it was unable to demonstrate statistically significant results when the subjects were initially divided into treatment and control groups, the results are potentially very important. Patients being treated saw improvement in verbal learning, memory, cognitive flexibility, and mental processing speed.

It is estimated that as much as 70 to 80 percent of dementia sufferers have sleep apnea. Researchers explained, "Although it is unlikely that OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] causes dementia, the lowered oxygen levels and sleep fragmentation associated with OSA might worsen cognitive function." It has also been shown that elderly patients with dementia suffered more severe symptoms, including more frequent awakenings, than patients without dementia.

When these researchers refer to sleep apnea treatment, they mean CPAP, but it is possible that oral appliance therapy may also be effective, and may be better tolerated.

This study confirms that no matter what the condition, it is most likely worsened by sleep apnea. If you are a sleep apnea sufferer, beginning treatment is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health. To learn more, schedule a sleep apnea consultation at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Center in Gurnee, Illinois.

posted by Dr. Candelaria at 9:27 AM