May 20, 2013
As the baby boomer generation ages, it’s not surprising that more and more people complain of memory problems. Here’s an article that describes the results of a survey which revealed that nearly 13% of people 60 or over reported confusion or memory loss which has worsened over the past 12 months. So far there are no definitive studies that suggest that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can cause Alzheimer’s disease (no scientific study will ever propose cause and effect), but based on how prevalent obstructive sleep apnea is in our country, and knowing how much sleep apnea causes various types of brain damage, it’s not too far fetched to say that untreated obstructive sleep apnea may explain a significant number of cases of memory loss or dementia. Anecdotally, many of my patients do report improved memory after sleep apnea treatment.
April 3, 2013
Here’s an interesting study showing that the presence of heart disease may predict dementia better than cognitive tests. This finding is not surprising since we know that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can cause major injury to multiple areas of the brain. We also know that the older you get, the more likely you’ll develop sleep apnea. In fact, based on some recent population studies, more than half of people over 50 had some degrees of sleep apnea.
December 10, 2012
Here’s an interesting study showing that women with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have worse levels of brain damage compared with men. In this particular study, the cingulum bundle and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas which are involved in decision-making and mood regulation, were most affected. The lead investigator was also the first to show that sleep apnea causes major damage to brain cells. As with every paper that studies sleep apnea and brain damage, the authors are always quick to add that they’re not sure if sleep apnea causes brain damage or brain damage causes sleep-breathing disorders. Based on all that we know about the effects of untreated obstructive sleep apnea, I would go with the former explanation.
October 8, 2012
When you go in for a routine physical exam, you expect the doctor to check your weight and your blood pressure and ask if you’ve been experiencing any aches and pains, but in the coming years, you can add ‘asking about your sleep’ to the list. Unless they routinely experience sleep problems, most doctors don’t check up on their patients’ sleep habits, but in response to new research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, doctors are seeing how sleep patterns may point to dementia and other disorders.
USA Today reports that currently there are an estimated 15.4 million Alzheimer’s patients in America, and that number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050. Experts are trying to find ways to detect the disease as early as possible. People who get too little or too much sleep are now believed to be at risk according to one study in Business Week. Their brains showed changes that were equivalent to them having aged two years. Research leader, Elizabeth Devore, said that sleep pattern changes of two hours or more were linked to lower cognitive scores.
A French study of about 5,000 healthy French people, aged 65 and above, found that those who reported above average amounts of daytime sleepiness had a higher rate of mental decline, according to HealthDay of U.S. News. The fourth study took place at Washington University School of Medicine where researchers found that amyloid proteins are linked to sleep patterns. Those with dementia had higher levels of the protein in their blood.
Make sure you are getting enough, high-quality sleep by following these tips:
1) Create an Environment that Promotes Sleep
It is imperative that your bedroom is comfortable, quiet and conducive to sleep. You’ll want a comfortable mattress that allows you to rest well. Convenient mattress delivery options are available to rapidly deliver the bed of your dreams. Maintain a dark and cool room between 60 and 75 degrees for optimal comfort. Make sure there are no distractions like a phone, television or computer.
2) Don’t Eat or Exercise Before Bedtime
Eating a meal within four to six hours of going to bed can cause your stomach to be upset, thus making your night restless. Also avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime as it produces stimulating chemicals within your body.
3) Follow A Bedtime Routine
If you’re a parent, you probably have a solid bedtime routine in place for your kids. Bath, drink of water, brush teeth, read a few stories and then, lights out. This helps them to wind down and sets the stage for good sleep. The same holds true for adults. Keep it simple, and avoid stressful or stimulating activities.
4) Only Stay in Bed When You’re Tired
If it’s your bedtime but you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed for longer than 20 minutes. Get up, go to another room and read a book, do some stretching or listen to relaxing music until you truly feel tired.
5) Keep Daytime Naps Short
If you feel that you need a little extra sleep during the daytime, limit your nap to 30 minutes or less. Napping between 12 and 2 in the afternoon can give you an energy boost and make you more productive, but catching a few winks after five o’clock can lead to poor sleep at night.
Start implementing these tips to help you get better, more restful sleep. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll likely be healthier and more productive as well. Since researchers are discovering a possible connection between sleep and aging disorders, there’s even more reason to get in a solid seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Justin Greig A self-proclaimed “21st century hippie,” Justin studied Journalism at Berkeley and freelances for many environmental publications. He has a special interest in conservation, and he and his wife recently added solar panels to their home.
August 14, 2012
Here’s an interesting study out of the University of Washington: Shots of growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) resulted in significant improvements in cognitive performance compared with placebo. This occurred in people with mild cognitive impairment as well as in healthy individuals.
Growth hormone is normally secreted mostly during deep (Stage 3) sleep. It’s known that Stage 3 sleep diminishes gradually as one gets older. If you also accept that fact that the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea increases significantly as you get older (62% in people over 65 in one study), then it makes sense that giving something that stimulate growth hormone will improve memory and cognitive abilities. Deep sleep is when your muscles become more relaxed, and more prone to obstructed breathing. Whether these obstructions lead to true apneas or micro-arousals, the end result is disrupted sleep taking you out of Stage 3 sleep.
You’ll see more studies linking sleep-breathing disorders and dementia in the coming months and years.
July 19, 2012
Almost every week, I come across another study that links poor sleep or sleep apnea to dementia. Here’s a paper that shows that sleep deprivation increases beta amyloid production. Beta amyloid plaques are what accumulates in dementia and alzheimer’s disease, and is the current hot topic in Alzheimer’s research.
This paper showed that chronic intermittent hypoxia increases beta amyloid production in the hippocampus, and that giving melatonin eliminated this amyloid plague buildup. Melatonin is a critical brain hormone that regulates sleep. Hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, is one of the hallmarks of obstructive sleep apnea.
Lastly, this landmark study showed that having sleep-disordered breathing was found to be significantly associated with developing mild cognitive impairment or demential.
Researchers are finally waking up to the fact that sleep apnea may be an important aspect of dementia and that amyoid plaque buildup may be just a marker of poor sleep, rather than being the cause of dementia.
March 9, 2012
Here’s a study showing that having both heart disease and depression can significantly increase your chances of cognitive decline later in life. This makes absolute sense if you have obstructive sleep apnea to begin with, since this is what can aggravate or cause both heart disease and depression. There are also many studies showing how damaging untreated obstructive sleep apnea is on the brain.
September 20, 2011
Here’s a new study out of Japan showing that people with uncontrolled diabetes had about a 35% increased risk of developing dementia. The article talks about how diabetes can cause clogging and blocking of the arteries, leading to lack of oxygen and brain damage. But guess what else causes lack of oxygen? Obstructive sleep apnea. Hypoxia has been shown to cause brain damage in numerous sleep apnea as well as Alzheimer’s research studies. As always, researchers are careful to point out that association never implies causality.
August 11, 2011
Here’s an important study that must be taken seriously. Researchers from UCSF and various other institutions showed that in elderly women, having sleep apnea significantly increases your risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia compared to those women who don’t have sleep apnea. In a study of 298 women as part of an osteoporosis study that underwent sleep studies, 105 (32%) were found to have significant obstructive sleep apnea (AHI >15). After 5 years, women with sleep apnea had a higher rate of cognitive impairment or dementia (44.8%) than those without sleep apnea (31.1%).
Knowing what we already know about sleep apnea and how it can ravage the brain, these results are not surprising.
May 5, 2011
Being overweight has been associated with a number of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Now a new study shows that being overweight in midlife significantly increases your chances of developing dementia later in life. You can read a summary of the study here.
The researchers are unclear about the reason for this observation, but do suggest the possibility that inflammation from being overweight, or diabetes and cardiovascular complications, can damage brain cells. What they’re majorly missing is the fact that the more overweight you are, the more likely you’ll have obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a major cause of hypoxia and brain injury. I’ve written numerous times in the past that sleep apnea has be shown to directly cause brain tissue injury, especially in areas that control memory, executive function, and even autonomic nervous system center that control breathing and heart rate.
What’s your take on this article?