Sleep apnea and its effects on dementia
By GARY LEBLANC, Common Sense Caregiving
Experts have begun researching the effect that "sleep apnea" could be having on the human brain.
This common sleep disorder is known for causing the person slumbering to stop breathing, sometimes more than one-hundred times during a single night.
The lack of oxygen to the brain has become a major concern. These lowered oxygen levels are believed to cause dementia, or at least mild cognitive impairment. In addition, they may also contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
This sleep disorder is most common in the elderly and also in people who are overweight.
It occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the mouth and throat begin to relax during sleep, causing the airways to become blocked. Most people with this condition snore loudly, but not necessarily.
One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a high rate of sleep apnea in elderly women.
Formerly it was believed that this disorder was most common in men, but this may not be the case after all.
During this study it was discovered that, of the women observed, 44 percent with sleep apnea also had problems with dementia or cognitive impairment.
Research has found that this sleep disorder may be prevalent in Alzheimer's patients in the early-to-mid stages. Also, those suffering from this nightly problem were found to have more severe symptoms from Alzheimer's disease.
One way to fight off this condition is through the wearing of a continuous positive airway pressure mask when going to bed.
It is also recommended to try sleeping on the right or left side, laying in the classic "fetal position."
There are many with this disorder that don't even know they have it.
If you find that you are waking up with headaches or are fatigued for no apparent reason, you may want to discuss the matter with your physician. Sleep apnea is treatable, but don't wait until you're diagnosed with dementia that may not be reversible.
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