Alzheimer’s found to be a side effect of obstructive sleep apnea, study finds
11/16/2017 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

People with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. This is due to the fact that those with this potentially serious sleep disorder have higher levels of amyloid beta, the peptides that have been strongly implicated in Alzheimer's disease. This was the conclusion the researchers behind a compelling new study came to in their work, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

For the purposes of their study, the team enlisted the 208 participants between the ages of 55 to 90, all of whom were in good mental health. They then performed spinal taps or lumbar punctures on each participant to collect cerebrospinal fluid, which is the fluid that protects the spinal cord and brain, and analyze them for amyloids. Furthermore, the researchers scanned the participants' brains to measure amyloid beta deposits.

They discovered that more than 50 percent of the participants had obstructive sleep apnea, with 36.5 percent having a mild form of the disorder, and 16.8 percent having a moderate to severe form of obstructive sleep apnea. (Related: New research suggests snoring is linked to Alzheimer’s.)

In addition, 104 of the original participants were followed for two years, as part of a longitudinal study. Through this, the researchers determined that there was a connection between the severity of sleep apnea and an increase in the brain's amyloid beta deposits.

“If this is the case, then the potential benefit of developing better screening tools to diagnose sleep apnea in the elderly who are often asymptomatic (to Alzheimer's) is enormous,” senior study author Dr. Ricardo Osorio told


Indeed, the publication noted that the treatments used for sleep apnea could play an important role in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. One of the treatments cited was the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which is basically a machine that utilizes a hose and mask or nosepiece to provide steady and constant pressure that keeps the airways open. Following this, the next step is to ascertain whether or not a CPAP machine could reduce amyloid beta buildups in the brain, and subsequently, minimize the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder wherein air is unable to flow normally into a person's lungs, causing their breathing to repeatedly stop then start over the course of sleep. The blockage of airflow is typically caused by the collapsing of the tongue and upper airway during sleep. Those with this condition may experience times during sleep when they'll be unable to breathe for brief periods of time.

According to a pamphlet issued by the American Thoracic Society, the people who are at high risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea are:

  • People with enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids
  • People with jaw problems like micrognathia (small jaw) or retrognathia (pulled-back jaw)
  • People who are obese
  • People whose family has a history of obstructive sleep apnea

Additionally, this disorder is more common among men, post-menopausal women, and people who are 65 years old and above. Children can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea as well.

There are many symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Some manifest during sleep, others while the affected person is awake. These include:

  • Dry or sore throat from breathing through the mouth during sleep
  • Gasping or choking sounds
  • Inability to concentrate or poor memory
  • Jerky or sudden body movements
  • Loud and bothersome snoring that can come and go during the night
  • Morning headaches
  • Observable breathing pauses
  • Sleepiness, fatigue, or exhaustion through the day
  • Tossing and turning

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to a variety of more serious health conditions over time. These can include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, mellitus, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, and even early death. Moreover, lacking sleep can result in a person falling asleep during moments when the utmost attention is required, such as while driving.

For more stories on Alzheimer's disease, its risk factors, and what can be done to prevent it, simply drop by today.

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