Link found between common sleep disorder and Alzheimer’s

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Researchers have identified brain changes that explain for the first time why sleep apnoea increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The research, led by Dr Géraldine Rauchs from the University of Caen Normandy, France, studied the effects of sleep apnoea on 127 older adults who were taking part in the Age Well clinical trial of the Silver Santé Study.

The volunteers, with a mean age of 69, completed neuropsychological assessments (tests to assess how the brain is working), polysomnography (to assess sleep quality and potential sleep disorders) tests and neuroimaging scans.

Those participants with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB or types of sleep apnoea) showed greater amyloid burden (protein deposits in the brain), GM volume (number of brain cells) and metabolism (how these cells use glucose for their activity) in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s – increasing their risk of developing the disease in coming years.

No association was found with cognition, self-reported cognitive and sleep difficulties or excessive daytime sleepiness symptoms.

“The results are very significant as although there was increased evidence suggesting sleep-disordered breathing (SBD) increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the brain mechanisms underlying the link were unclear,” explained Dr Rauchs.

“This study shows for the first time that SBD, or sleep apnoea, increases amyloid burden, GM volume and metabolism in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, increasing the risk of these individuals developing the disease in the future.

“This doesn’t mean, of course, that these participants will necessarily develop Alzheimer’s – just that their risk of developing the disease in future is increased.

“Fortunately, there are effective treatments available for SDB but the results of this study re-emphasise the importance of preserving good sleep quality throughout life in order to safeguard good mental health in later life.”

Do you suffer from sleep apnoea? Are you worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life?

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