Breathing difficulties during sleep may be an early warning sign of future Alzheimer’s disease, researchers believe.
Experts are not sure how sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and Alzheimer’s are linked, but evidence suggests some people who suffer from the sleep problem may already be starting to develop pre-symptomatic dementia. SDB is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that affect breathing during sleep.
The most common is obstructive sleep apnoea, which affects around 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women.
Sleep apnoea results in breathing being repeatedly interrupted during sleep and is often accompanied by heavy snoring.
Ricardo Osorio, from New York University School of Medicine in the US, who led the new research, said: “We know that about 10 to 20% of middle-aged adults in the United States have SDB and that the number jumps dramatically in those over the age of 65. We don’t know why it becomes so prevalent but one factor may be that some of these patients are in the earliest pre-clinical stages of [Alzheimer’s disease].”
A group of 68 men and women with an average age of 71 and no evidence of dementia took part in the study, with 48.5% found to have mild SDB and a quarter moderate to severe SDB.
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