Researchers at Monash University have found additional evidence linking obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to an increased risk of dementia. Severe OSA is linked to an increase in a protein called beta-amyloid that builds up on the walls of the arteries in the brain and increases the risk of dementia, the researchers said.
The study involved 34 individuals with recently diagnoses untreated OSA and 12 individuals who were asymptomatic for sleep disorders. It explored the associations between brain amyloid burden using a PET brain scan and measures of sleep, demographics, and mood.
The OSA group recorded a higher amyloid burden, poorer sleep efficiency, and less time spent in stage N3 sleep, which is a regenerative period where the body heals and repairs itself.
OSA affects about a billion people worldwide, the researchers said. It is caused by the collapse of the airway during sleep, resulting in intermittent dips in oxygen levels and arousals from sleep.
“The significance of finding the association between increased brain amyloid in patients with OSA will allow for further research to explore in more detail the implications of treating OSA for reducing dementia risk,” said study leader Melinda Jackson, PhD, of the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University.
The study, “Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is Associated With Higher Amyloid Burden: A Preliminary PET Imaging Study,” was published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.