Sleep Apnea Linked To Increased Risk Of Dementia In Elderly Women

August 23, 2013

Guest blog by Rania Paula

According to a latest study, elderly women suffering from sleep apnea problems, which results in the disruptive breathing condition are highly prone to develop dementia within the next five years, when compared to those who do not have such condition within the next five years. In the recent study conducted with 298 women aged over 65, researchers have found that about 44.8% of women with this condition showed symptoms of mild cognitive impairment or dementia issues. But 31.1% of women had no signs of sleep apnea.

The study also revealed that there exist a biological connection between sleep, and cognition. It also suggested that when the elderly women, who undergo treatment sleep apnea would also help in preventing the onset of dementia among older adults. The findings of the study also revealed that sleep apnea can deprive the brain and other vital organs in the body from requiring oxygen levels and would also decrease the function of these organs rapidly over time.

Why does the breathing pauses in sleep?

People who suffer from sleep apnea have a problem with their airways that leads to the nose and mouth from the lungs. This airway collapses at night resulting in inability to inhale properly. This makes the people suffering with sleep apnea to snore and wake up unknowingly in the middle of the sleep leaving them gasping for air. This process repeats throughout the sleep resulting into pausing of breathing during sleep.

The previous research revealed that there is a relationship between sleep apnea and dementia. But according to the new study women with sleep are at higher risk when compared to men. The researchers of this study only picked those sleep apnea women who were not suffering from dementia or cognitive impairments were selected.

Sleep specialists personally visited the homes of each participant and monitored the process of their sleep. They were connected to various equipments while in sleep. These equipments were used to measure the activity of the brain, the air flow, breathing pattern and the level of oxygen content in the blood. They also undertook various tests to measure their verbal fluency, memory and cognitive abilities. About one third of the women who were tested had developed these two conditions of dementia and mild cognitive disorders.

The connection between oxygen and dementia:

According to the study leader, this is the first study, which revealed that there exists a connection between sleep apnea, and cognitive impairment. Findings of the study suggest that the key to decreased cognitive abilities displayed by the elderly women was due to the deprived levels of oxygen, which is known as hypoxia.

The women who experienced frequent occasions of low oxygen or spent most of their sleep time with this low oxygen levels are more likely to show the symptoms of cognitive impairment.

But interestingly, there were no relationship between the condition of dementia, and the number of times the patients gasped for air during their sleep time. The study also makes it clear that by providing oxygen therapy to the patients with sleep apnea has slowed down the process of losing their cognitive ability.

Rania Paula, author of this article writes for  www.sleepwellblog.com. A weblog providing information about various sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, sleep deprivation, etc and there by helping you to have good night sleep.

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