More Links Between Sleep Apnea & Alzheimer’s Disease

A patient happened to comment that her husband has Alzheimer's disease, and also has severe sleep apnea. She notices that for years, he stops breathing repeatedly at night, with multiple gasps for air and frequent awakenings. Unfortunately, he's not able to tolerate his CPAP machine. She's convinced that her husband's worsening brain function is aggravated, if not caused by his untreated sleep apnea. 

She's brought up this issue with numerous prominent Alzheimer's doctors and is usually told that there's no connection, and her idea is blown off. 

Knowing what we already know about sleep apnea and brain damage, I totally agree with her. Numerous studies have shown significant brain damage in multiple parts of the brain from untreated sleep apnea, including tissue volume loss, tissue density loss, lacunar infarcts, and decreased metabolism in critical areas of the brain. One recent study showed that CPAP therapy significantly increases brain gray matter volume after 3 months of usage. Executive functioning and short term memory were also significantly improved.

Should there be more research into the association between sleep apnea and Alzheimer's? What do you think?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “More Links Between Sleep Apnea & Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. ABSOLUTELY!  It makes perfect sense that there could be a link, bearing in mind how sleep apnea affects the brain.  The latest study telling us that 'CPAP Restores Brain Tissue…….' is positive news for us all, and it would be interesting to know if Alzheimer patients can have the same benefit after 3 months on CPAP.

  2. Oh! YES. I just googled the 2 A words together since my FIL has Alz' and his snores and apenea induced waking wakes up the whole neighbourhood. Maybe its the brief oxygen deprivation that may be aggrevating the Alz? Certainly worth further research.

  3. Yes. My dad who is only 60yrs old has sever sleep apnea for a few years now with a cpap machine. He was diagnozed with early dementia/alzheimer this past year.

    I think there is a correlation between this & dementia at such a young age. He doesn’t sleep well and the lack of sleep cannot be good for brain functionality.

  4. Yes I do believe there is strong link. My husband has been w/sleep apnea for about 25 years and began using the CPAC machine about three years ago. I do believe that i am living with a bipolar/dementia person. i do believed that SA have damage his brain. He does not want to talk about it, or recognized that something is wrong with him. He looses control easily. It is a nightmare, it is affecting all of us.
    SA should be address more opently, people needs to be educated about it. It is a silent killer.

  5. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea 4 yeras ago. I know I have had it since probably the age of 24. (I’m 42 now) I’ve noticed over the past year that things have only become worse. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night not breathing, but it’s strange/scary because I have forgotten how to breathe. I know it’s the sleep apnea. I was using a CPAP machine which was helping tremendously, then was laid off in 2009. When that happened, I could no longer keep my CPAP because insurance expired and I could not afford it. Lately, I have noticed that I cannot remember many things that I know should be simple to remember. I have noticed that my brain will sometimes feel numb or feels inadequate. I often believe that my brain is shrinking. This has lead me to research the possible link of sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s. I wish there a way I could participate in a sleep study so others could know of a possible link. If this is not taken care of soon, there will be millions of others out there like me. This is becoming debilitating and is so embarrassing to me personally. After the lay off, I have attempted working in contract positions, but cannot further the assignments because of my lack of sleep and inability to remember simple tasks. It makes me just want to give up and die. (Which will probably happen anyway since there is no way to receive meddical attention due to no insurance)

  6. My maternal grandmother had a diagnosed (post mortem) case of Alzheimer Disease. It started in her early 50’s and by the time she was 65 she could not recognize anyone. My mother is in the early stage of Alzheimer Disease, she is 75, and has been taking Aricept for two years and her declining has stalled… somewhat. I am 45 and three years ago found out that I have sleep apnea. I don’t look like a typical sleep apnea candidate, female, not overweight, non-smoker, and in fair physical condition. I was shocked to find out that I had it. I was unable to get used to the CPAP machine, and put it in the closet. After 3 years I went to a plethosomnography unit and got a full sleep study done. Again I was told I have sleep apnea. This time I got a mask that was better suited to me, my CPAP machine adjusted, and I am totally used to it. I cannot tell you how much better I feel. I feel like the “cotton” in my head is gone. I have more stamina (not energy in the sense of going faster – just not getting tired mid-day and giving up). Both my mom and grandmother complained of being “poor sleepers” and while I fear that I too have a very good chance of developing Alzheimer Disease, I certainly want to do everything in my power to prevent (or slow down) the progression. I urge people to ask for a sleep study (even a simple at home Stardust test) just to find out for sure. It is a life saver!

  7. Excessive Oxygen Exposure and Cognitive Decline (from Stephanie Seneff’s, “APOE-4 The Clue to Why Low Fat Diet and Statins may Cause Alzheimer’s.”) seneff@csail.mit.edu , December 15, 2009
    There is strong evidence that the excessive oxygen exposure during operations is causing oxidative damage in the Alzheimer’s brain. Does a CPAP machine, with its hours of oxygen to the brain, have a similar effect on individuals using CPAP machines for hours a day, over a span of years? Is there oxidative damage to brain cells being done to patient’s brains that actually work against preventing Alzheimer’s Disease? I think THIS process should be investigated, considering how many adults are using CPAP machines and the growing number of obese, at risk, youth who will be using CPAP machine years earlier than a normal! The article noted at the top of this post is about the benefit of cholesterol and lipids on our brains but also other brain and body issues that could be leading to Alzheimer’s. After reading the research article it also made me wonder about the demise (bad oxidation) of brain cells because of exposure to CPAP oxygen to the brain.

  8. My sister also has Alzheimer’s and sleep apena my concerns is when she wakes up and wanders that she will drag the machine with her. She does not suffer from lack of sleep it is to much sleep. If anyone else has dealt with this issue I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at barbh5350@hotmail.com Thank you

  9. My wife was diagnosed with quite severe sleep apnea in early 2008 and began to use a CPAP. Initially it seemed to help, especially being able to let her have a night’s sleep without snoring, which had been present for over 30 years.

    In 2009, there were occasions of ‘forgetfulness’, plus other features which indicated that something wasn’t normal. We were told by a neurologist that it was very likely the first signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, which was confirmed as time went by.

    In late 2013, when she needed permanent care in an ACF, the CPAP machine went with her, BUT… Very soon it was clear that she could not manage the equipment! Consequently, she is not receiving such breathing assistance at night and, coupled with the need for calming medication, her oxygen needs are compromised, resulting in her being always tired.

    Is there any way to compensate for inability to use a CPAP for such Alzheimer sufferers?

    I would be interested to know I