WESTCHESTER, Ill. Increases in total sleep time related to the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) are associated with improvements in cognition in patients with Alzheimer disease, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Tuesday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).
The study, authored by Jana R. Cooke, MD, Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD and colleagues from the University of California San Diego, focused on 52 participants with an average age of 77.8 years who had Alzheimer disease and OSA. The participants were randomized to six weeks of therapeutic CPAP or three weeks placebo CPAP followed by three weeks therapeutic CPAP. The participants underwent cognitive testing at baseline, three weeks and six weeks. Sleep was analyzed and scored for sleep stage, total sleep time, amount of time awake during the night, and the amount of oxygen in the blood.
According to the results, when Alzheimers disease patients with OSA were treated with CPAP, an increase in the total amount of sleep at night, not improvement in oxygen levels, was associated with improvements in cognition.
This finding implies that the cognitive dysfunction associated with OSA in patients with dementia may be in part an effect of short sleep time rather than a function of low levels of oxygen during sleep, said Dr. Cooke.
OSA is a sleep-related breathing disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. OSA occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. This keeps air from getting into the lungs. OSA is more common among older adults and among people who are significantly overweight. OSA can increase a person's risk for high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, and cognitive problems.
Not sleeping well can lead to a number of problems. Older adults who have poor nighttime sleep are more likely to have a depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. In addition, recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
While most people require seven to eight hours of sleep a night to perform optimally the next day, older adults might find this harder to obtain. Older adults must be more aware of their sleep and maintain good sleep hygiene by following these tips:
First introduced as a treatment option for sleep apnea in 1981, CPAP is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. CPAP provides a steady stream of pressurized air to patients through a mask that they wear during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open, preventing the pauses in breathing that characterize sleep apnea and restoring normal oxygen levels.