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The Increasingly Clear Link Between Sleep Apnoea & Alzheimer’s Disease

Medically Reviewed & Written By: Bobby Afshari (B.Pharm.MPS)
Last Updated: 10/03/2020

sleep alzheimers link

Along with the already confirmed health impacts that sleep apnoea can have, new research has suggested a significant link between sleep apnoea and dementia. This comes after various studies in recent years, each indicating that the treatment of this common sleep disorder could help to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

The studies have shown links between sleep apnoea, the development of amyloid plaque in the brain, changes in the temporal lobes, and accelerated cognitive decline. The research demonstrates the significance of sleep apnoea and getting CPAP treatment.

How Sleep Apnoea Can Cause Alzheimer’s Disease

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea occurs when a blocked airway results in reduced oxygen intake. Research on link between sleep apnoea and dementia has been undertaken by various experts and institutions, including;

  • The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre
  • Wheaton College, Illinois
  • The University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute and School of Biomedical Sciences
  • New York University School of Medicine
  • The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Each study has provided increasing evidence that CPAP therapy may protect against Alzheimer’s or slow its progress, with the common factor being the increase in the development of amyloid plaque in the brain. Beta-amyloid accumulation is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s, with the brain clearing up amyloid plaque deposits during sleep.

In one case, 516 people aged in their 70s with sleep disorders were studied, with a significant number of patients showing greater increases in beta-amyloid deposits. This was regardless of whether patients had the gene that is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. The reason for this may be due to the repeated deprivation of oxygen to the brain that is experienced by people suffering from sleep apnoea.

Many researchers have made it clear that it has thus far been difficult to determine the causality of these associations. Regardless of the causality, CPAP treatment may be a key method in reducing the risk and progression of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

How CPAP Therapy Can Help

CPAP therapy provides an effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea, providing mild air pressure to a person’s upper airway and allowing them to breathe consistently and comfortably during sleep.

With the association of Alzheimer’s and sleep apnoea, CPAP is an important factor in reducing the risks of both diseases. Sleep apnoea reduces the effectiveness of the brain clearing up deposits of amyloid plaque throughout sleep. Given this, CPAP therapy may be effective in allowing for an uninterrupted sleep process, reducing amyloid plaque build-up, and thus reducing risk or progression of Alzheimer’s.

Not to mention, CPAP treatment can improve various other symptoms associated with sleep apnoea. People with sleep apnoea that use CPAP treatment can reduce their risk of diabetes, stroke, memory lapses, and headaches. This is in addition to the improvements that can be seen in tiredness, cognitive function, and mood.

Should You Get a Check Up?

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that obstructive sleep apnoea occurs in as many as 3 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women. Or, depending on how it is defined, experts estimate that 30% to 80% of the elderly suffer from sleep apnoea.

Specialists believe that the condition may remain undiagnosed in up to 80% of cases of sleep apnoea.

Being a common health disorder, a significant number of adults are unknowingly suffering from sleep apnoea; many with symptoms such as poor memory, tiredness and poor mood. Experts have stressed the importance of taking sleep tests to determine whether sleep apnoea may be affecting you, with one researcher saying:

“Older people that are concerned about their memory and thinking skills need not to have really severe sleepiness in order to get their sleep looked into”

If you would like to look into getting a sleep diagnosis, CPAP Online Australia offers quick and easy sleep tests, as well as committed customer support. Get in touch with us today to book a sleep test with one of our sleep apnoea experts.

Bobby Afshari (B.Pharm.MPS)

Bobby Afshari (B.Pharm.MPS)

Bobby Afshari studied a Bachelor of Pharmacy and is a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Bobby is the sleep technician at CPAP Online Australia.