More Connections Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep Apnea

Mainstream Alzheimer’s research is still focused on genetics and ways of biochemically blocking amyloid plaque buildup. Clinical applications for this model have been mixed, if not disappointing. As I’ve mentioned many times in past posts, articles and interviews, The vast majority of seniors will have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. We know that sleep apnea can cause major brain injury involved in various critical areas, including memory and executive function.

There are more and more studies now coming out that are linking Alzheimer’s and sleep apnea. A recent small study reported finding higher rates of positive biomarkers of Alzheimer’s in seniors for sleep apnea, especially in thinner people. Another article reviews the strong association between intermittent hypoxia (during apneas) on the brain and brain damage. 

I’m glad to see that clinicians and researchers are beginning to address this important issue.

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One thought on “More Connections Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep Apnea

  1. From the study (see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23400634 ) “Typically, OSA is characterized by recurrent chronic intermittent … cerebral hypoperfusion, and cerebral glucose hypometabolism.”

    I think that Sleep Apnea brings on not just a “One Punch” from hypoxia but rather a “One Two Three” punch. Yes there is a time of Apnea which amazingly rapidly brings down the blood oxygen levels (hypoxia) and raises the blood carbon dioxide levels (hypercapnea) but this is followed by a “recovery time” which – encouraged by the increased stress hormone levels from the previous apneas in the night – very likely “overshoots” saturating the blood oxygen levels (hyperoxia?) and drawing the blood carbon dioxide levels past eucapnea into hypocapnea. With the stress hormone levels being ratcheted up “one more time” by the whole thing and likely for other reasons breathing tends to remain at a higher level (long-term potentiation) which may have something to do with why those with apnea desaturate blood oxygen levels so quickly. The oxygen levels swing both ways (punch one) – the carbon dioxide levels swing both ways (punch two) and the stress hormone levels are raised (punch three). What poor brain can withstand that??!!??

    Perhaps it is not only the low oxygen levels but also the ways that sleep apnea messes with breathing control that enables the plaques to form?

    Perhaps the geneticists should be looking at breathing control stability as a target for their research?

    Some thoughts.