Do You Have Demented Sleep

Insomnia and sleep apnea may lead to dementia

August 9, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Most women past the age of 45 understand the concept of sleepless nights or nights with less than four hours of shut eye.

Is this lack of sleep causing other problems besides boredom at night? A recent study indicates that women with sleep-disordered breathing were more likely to develop dementia than those without the breathing condition.

"If having restless nights, ask your doctor about sleep-disordered breathing."

Kristine Yaffe, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco and her colleagues report that as much as 60 percent of older adults are awakened throughout the night because of intermittent hypoxia. Various conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension are associated with sleep-disordered breathing. 

The study included 298 women with an average age of 82 who did not have dementia. All of these ladies had overnight polysomnography measured between 2002 and 2004, which was part of the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. The study participants' cognitive status was re-evaluated between 2006 and 2008.

Among the women studied, 35.2 percent met criteria for sleep-disordered breathing. After an average of 4.7 years of follow-up, 35.9 percent of the women had since developed mild cognitive impairment (20.1 percent) or dementia ( 15.8 percent). Almost 45 percent of the women who were diagnosed with prevalent sleep-disordered breathing developed mild impairment or dementia compared to 31 percent of the women without breathing problems during sleep. Data analysis found an association between sleep-disordered breathing and increased odds of developing cognitive impairment or dementia five years later.

The researchers report that the number of times of arousal once asleep were not associated with the risk of dementia. They conclude that it is only sleep-disordered breathing that is associated with dementia development, not arousal from sleep.

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Review Date: 
August 8, 2011
Last Updated:
August 9, 2011