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?