Sleep Disordered Breathing Linked to Memory Problems

November 12, 2012

Sleep Disordered Breathing Linked to Memory Problems

Sleep disordered breathing is a condition which can affect up to 60% of older people. When people suffer from the condition they have lower oxygen levels in their blood and their sleep is disrupted frequently. Recently a study claims that sleep disordered breathing may negatively affect older people with dementia and memory problems.

The disorder has also been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Previous research has noted an association between sleep disordered breathing and memory problems. However other age related conditions had an interaction so the strength of the association is not known.

Reduced Oxygen Affects Memory

The study compared the risk of memory problems and dementia. Researchers assessed a group of 298 women and compared findings of those with the disorder against those without the disorder. The average age of the women was 82 years. The evaluation for sleep disordered breathing took place between 2002 and 2004 and the women were tested again five years later to check on their memory condition. From the complete group, 36% of the women had developed problems with their memory. Dementia was seen in 16% of the cases and mild memory problems were identified in 20% of the women. The study showed that only 31% of those women not diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing had memory problems, yet 45% with sleep disordered breathing had developed dementia or memory problems. These results suggested to the researchers that decreased oxygen levels in the blood may increase memory problems in older people.

Noting this possible link between sleep disordered breathing and memory problems is important because sleep disordered breathing is a treatable condition. The researchers also identified that the disrupted sleep had no effect on the risk to memory. However the decreased oxygen levels caused by sleep disordered breathing were linked to an increased risk of memory problems and dementia. Researchers note that because of the high incidence of elderly people with sleep disordered breathing and the likelihood of an association between that and memory issues produces a situation with lots of potential for a positive outcome to many people.

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