FACT: Snorers are much more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia

People who snore are at far greater risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers have said, and, this being regarded as an important medical breakthrough. It is seen as so important that it has been widely reported in the main consumer press, even hitting the front page in some cases.

Scientists at Harvard University have found that disorders such as snoring and sleep apnoea that disrupt sleep are linked to greater cognitive decline, Breathing disorders which disrupt sleep have been proved to result in memory loss and a reduced attention span.

Recent figures from the Alzheimer’s Association estimate that obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs in an estimated 3 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women.

Study author Dr Susan Redline from Harvard University, said: ‘Given the lack of known effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, our results support the potential for sleep-disordered breathing screening and treatment as part of a strategy to reduce dementia risk.’

The Harvard University researchers analysed 1,752 people with an average age of 68 and the study’s participants took part in a sleep study, completed a sleep questionnaire and had their mental function assessed.

So-called sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) was defined as having more than 15 stopped or shallow breaths per hour, as well as loud snoring and participants were diagnosed with sleep apnoea if they had more than five stopped or shallow breaths per hour, as well as self-reporting sleepiness.

People were also identified as being at-risk of Alzheimer’s if they carried a certain variation of a gene known as APOE, which carries cholesterol and supports brain injury repair in healthy people. Previous studies have already demonstrated one-fifth of the population who carry the APOE genetic variation are at an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Adequate quality sleep levels are worsening worldwide and this heightens the risk for both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in later years. For example The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than one third of American adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis.

“Clearly this is not good for brain health or overall health,” said Dean M. Hartley, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association Director of Science Initiatives. “Sleep disordered breathing is treatable in many cases. Through early diagnosis and effective treatment of these sleep disorders, there is the potential to improve cognition and possibly reduce dementia risk.”

Early treatment to prevent snoring or any other more severe form of sleep-disordered breathing is advised by all the relevant medical and professional bodies involved in the research programmes mentioned. The evidence was that treatment reduces the risk significantly.

Most people are unaware if they snore or gasp for air due to the disturbed sleep caused by OSA, unless their partners have noted it, which in most cases is what happens. If you’re unsure then you should contact your Doctor or a Hospital Sleep Centre for testing and further advice.

Critical cases of OSA would likely need to use CPAP, but medically approved oral appliances have shown in tests to be highly successful in preventing both snoring, and mild to moderate cases of sleep apnoea.

These are simple to obtain and comfortable to wear, particularly if they are custom-fitted versions, and they are available at highly affordable prices without prescription. Millions of people worldwide already use them to prevent snoring and the case to use them is now even more important based on this new information.

John Redfern

Alzheimer’s Association Press Release
American Thoracic Society Press Release