At Sleep Health Group we often see people who are concerned about memory difficulties. They are frequently referred to us by a geriatrician who is concerned that sleep difficulties in general, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in particular, may be contributing to the memory loss.
The last session at the recent Sleep Downunder conference addressed the link between OSA and Alzheimer’s disease. We were reminded that while OSA is present in somewhere between 9 and 25% of the adult population, amongst elderly adults much higher numbers are affected. (Estimates range from 20 to 84% of the population, depending on how OSA is defined). OSA occurs five times more frequently amongst people with Alzheimer’s disease than healthy adults of the same age, and treatment of OSA improves memory and the ability to think (cognitive functioning) amongst people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The reasons for the association between OSA and Alzheimer’s disease are not clear. There are, however, very interesting pieces of evidence emerging from research. An article from the ABC reports on some of this evidence linking reduced oxygen levels overnight with changes in the brain. The research was presented at the recent conference by Professor Sharon Naismith from the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre, who reminded us that “If people are complaining of memory disorders we should screen them for sleep disorders”.
The title statement of this post ("Well, I'm not suffering from dementia anymore!") was offered as a greeting by a client recently. While this individual was almost certainly not suffering from dementia, they were struggling with forgetfulness at the time they were first assessed at Sleep Health Group. This problem resolved after they were diagnosed with OSA and treated with CPAP for several weeks.
This experience underscores why we at Sleep Health Group will continue to look for, and treat, OSA and other sleep disorders in people who are suffering from memory disorders.
Contact us to arrange a sleep study at our Geelong, Melbourne or Ballarat sleep centres today.