Obstructive sleep apnea is about more than snoring and restless nights. It can contribute to a wide range of health conditions, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease. Research has also indicated that untreated sleep apnea can even increase the risks of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Here is a look at what the research says and what you can do if you think you could have sleep apnea.  

What is sleep apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the airway becomes obstructed when at rest, restricting the flow of oxygen. People with sleep apnea can wake up hundreds of times per night as they gasp for air, but the waking periods are so short that these individuals do not know that they are happening. Many people don’t find out that they have sleep apnea until a sleep partner tells them about their snoring and gasping episodes or when they see a doctor to discover the cause of their excessive daytime drowsiness.  

How do sleep problems increase the risk of dementia? 

Multiple studies have shown a link between sleep apnea and amyloid deposits in the brain. These amyloid deposits are believed to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. The risk of having high levels of amyloid deposits increases with the severity of the sleep apnea.

Although patients with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing amyloid deposits, researchers have not found that one causes the other. People at high risk of having sleep apnea may also have other risk factors that put them at a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment or developing forms of dementia.  

What should I do if I think I have sleep apnea? 

If you suspect you could have sleep apnea, the first step is to undergo a sleep study to receive a definitive diagnosis. If you do have it, treatments are available that can improve your symptoms and let you get the sleep you need. Treating sleep apnea is essential to reducing the risk of serious health complications.  

Learn more about sleep apnea risks and treatments in Central New Jersey by contacting Sleep Dynamics. We offer overnight sleep studies as well as CPAP and oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea. For more information, please call (848) 217-0240.