Severity of sleep apnea related to the degree of cognitive impairment in the elderly

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Sleep Health | Sleep Review

A preliminary study to be presented at the 73rd annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has made new observations on the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and cognitive impairment. The study will be presented at the AAN meeting, which will practically take place April 17-22, 2021.

Cognitive impairments include memory and thinking problems that affect concentration, decision-making, and learning new things. The risk of cognitive impairment increases with age.

“Better sleep is beneficial to the brain and can improve cognitive abilities. However, in our study, we found that more than half of people with cognitive impairment had obstructive sleep apnea, ”study author Mark I. Boulos, MD of the University of Toronto in Canada and a member of the American Academy of Neurology said in a publication . “We also found that people with insomnia had lower scores on thinking and memory tests. Understanding how obstructive sleep apnea affects this population is important because treatment has the potential to improve thinking and memory, as well as the overall quality of life. “

The study included 67 people with an average age of 73 years who had cognitive impairment. Participants completed questionnaires on sleep, cognition, and mood. They also took a 30-point rating to determine the level of their cognitive impairment. Questions included identifying the date and city they were in and repeating words to remember at the beginning of the test. The score in the test area ranges from zero to 30. A score of 26 or higher is considered normal, 18-25 means mild cognitive impairment, and 17 or less means moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

[RELATED: Researchers: In Elderly, Clinicians Evaluating Obstructive Sleep Apnea Should Screen for Cognitive Impairments]

Participants were given sleep apnea tests at home to see if they had obstructive sleep apnea.

The researchers found that 52% of the study participants had obstructive sleep apnea. People with insomnia were 60% more likely to have fewer points on the cognitive test than people without OSA. People with OSA had an average score of 20.5 compared to an average score of 23.6 for people without a sleep disorder.

In addition, the researchers found that the severity of obstructive sleep apnea corresponded to the participants’ level of cognitive impairment, as well as the quality of their sleep, including how long they slept, the speed at which they fell asleep, the efficiency of their sleep, and the frequency of their night awakening.

“People with cognitive impairments should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, as it can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that keeps the airway open at night,” says Boulos. “However, not everyone who tries CPAP chooses therapy regularly, and this can be more of a challenge for people with thinking and memory problems. Future research should be directed towards finding ways to diagnose and treat the disease that are efficient and easy to use in people with cognitive impairments. “

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