- A new analysis looking at data from five population-based studies delved
deeper into the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea, lack of
sufficient sleep, and cognitive function.
- The analysis found that preventing obstructive sleep apnea — when
a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep — and better
sleep consolidation was linked to better cognitive function in the participants.
- By contrast, shorter sleep duration was linked with impaired attention
and other cognitive issues.
In adults without
dementia, sleep consolidation and the absence of
obstructive sleep apnea could be important for optimizing cognition with aging, according to a
study published in
JAMA Network Open.
Researchers looked at data from five population-based studies across the
United States with at least 5 years of follow-up. Studies were overnight
sleep studies with neuropsychological assessments. They analyzed the data
between March 2020 and June 2023.
The scientists looked at sleep studies specific to sleep consolidation
and sleep apnea and their association with the risk of dementia and related
cognitive and brain function.
The study included 5,945 adults without any history or presence of
stroke or dementia.
The researchers found that better sleep consolidation and the absence of
obstructive sleep apnea are associated with higher cognitive function,
and short sleep duration was associated with poorer attention and processing speed.
Consolidated sleep refers to sleep that is continuous and uninterrupted
by night awakenings.
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by episodes of a collapse of the airway, which can decrease
oxygen and result in fragmented and nonrestorative sleep.
The researchers also found that better sleep consolidation and the absence
of sleep apnea were associated with better cognition over the 5-year follow-up.
The scientists suggested that these findings indicated that more research
on interventions’ role in improving consolidated sleep to maintain
cognitive function is needed.
“Some aspects [of this study] were predictable and further reinforced
concepts related to the association between sleep and cognition over time,”
Dr. Vernon Williams, a sports neurologist, pain management specialist, and founding director
of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe
Institute in Los Angeles, not involved in this study, told
Medical News Today.
”An interesting and less predictable finding in this study was the
lack of association between cognitive decline and specific sleep stages.
One would have predicted that a reduction in slow-wave, deep sleep would
be more detrimental than other stages, but that was not the case. There
are many potential explanations, but that is an interesting finding.”
– Dr. Vernon Williams
“This study [further] helps by demonstrating effects across multiple
groups of participants and by demonstrating that overall sleep efficiency,”
Dr. Williams continued, “as well as the presence of obstructive
sleep apnea — whether or not a prior diagnosis exists — significantly
affect cognition over time.”
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition where breathing stops. It
restarts many times while you sleep, according to the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Medical experts estimate that between
25 and 30% of men, and between 9 and 17% of women have obstructive sleep apnea. Prevalence
increases with age.
The most common type of sleep apnea is a narrowing or collapse of the upper
airway stopping airflow. When this happens, the person stops breathing
for a short period and then starts again during their sleep and typically
is not aware this is happening.
It can lead to poor quality sleep, trouble concentrating, and problems
with decision-making and memory.
According to the
American Lung Association, signs of sleep apnea include:
It is also linked to other health conditions.
Research shows that obstructive sleep apnea might raise the risk of
high blood pressure,
heart disease, and stroke.
Dr. Laura DeCesaris, a functional medicine doctor and health and wellness coach, not involved
in the study, told
MNT that lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, not smoking, and not drinking,
can help decrease obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition, she offered the following tips to improve sleep:
managing stress more effectively and paying attention to where the body holds stress —
many people hold tension in their neck and shoulders, resulting in this
forward head carriage and posture not conducive to proper breathing
- paying attention to sleep posture, as side sleeping can sometimes help
inflammation in the gut and nasal passages often makes breathing through the nose difficult
modifying the diet and switching towards a more anti-inflammatory diet
where possible could help
hydrated and trying out a humidifier in the bedroom, especially in a dry climate.