Women Who Have Sleep Apnea Have Risk of Dementia


DementiaDifficulty breathing disorders during sleep can lead to long-term problems, particularly in women. Women with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of experiencing cognitive decline or dementia.

The new study found that older women have a 85 percent higher likelihood of experiencing mild cognitive impairment or dementia over the next 5 years if they suffer from obstructive sleep apnea 15 times or more during the first hours of sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that makes sufferers repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. This sleep disturbance potentially damages the brain.

“This is a prospective study of elderly women followed over time to understand the relationship of sleep apnea and cognitive impairment or dementia,” said Dr. Susan Redline, a researcher in the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, according to HealthDay.

The research conducted by Dr. Redline found a very high prevalence in women with untreated apnea.

“About a third of women have obstructive sleep apnea and women have about a 80 percent increased risk of developing cognitive impairment or dementia during the study,” explains Dr. Redline.

Although the study was not designed to uncover the mechanisms of recurrent lack of oxygen can cause dementia, Dr. Redline noted that it may harm the health of the brain by affecting how the brain continually recharge the cells.

The study involved 298 women who did not have dementia at the start of the study. Averagely participants was about 82 years of age. All participants underwent overnight sleep studies using sensors and computerized monitoring (polysomnography) between 2002 and 2004.

105 women were diagnosed with respiratory disorders during sleep. This means they have about 15 or more events per hour of sleep apnea. During apnea events of the brain deprived of oxygen.

Five years after the sleep study, female participants were given tests of cognitive function to assess the health of their brains. The result showed that breathing disorders during sleep significantly increases the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

Researchers also adjusted the data to take into account other factors that may contribute to cognitive impairment or dementia, such as age, education, body mass index, diabetes, smoking, medication and basic value for brain health.

These findings have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.