Sleep apnea is a scary disorder. At minimum, it can cause its sufferers to be tired all day regardless of how much time they spend in bed. At extremes, it can be fatal. Scientists are now warning about another possible complication — early memory loss.
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which the airways repeatedly close while the patient is sleeping, causing fragmented sleep that increases risk for a variety of other health problems. Patients often snore loudly and wake up several times a night. About 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. The primary treatment is the nighttime use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that keeps the airways open and forces air in
Researchers are concerned in some cases these breathing issues could mean vital organs – including the brain – are at risk of not getting the oxygen they require. While looking into patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists investigated those who also reported sleep apnea, and what they found was shocking. They discovered that people with the condition were more likely to report memory and thinking problems in their late 70s. That’s an average of 10 years before those who breathed easily while asleep. But, the small number of patients who used a CPAP machine did not report memory problems early on.
Researchers are now conducting larger studies to see whether CPAP therapy could help preserve memory and thinking power.