The Surprising Connection Between Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and Alzheimer’s Disease

by | Last updated Dec 1, 2021

We only recommend products in our blog that we recommend in our office. We may receive a small commission on some products but it does not change the price you pay (unless we offer you a money saving discount).

Every day we learn more about the important role sleep plays in overall health. New research from the Mayo Clinic is now indicating a link to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This isn’t the first study to link disordered breathing and brain health, but it’s a powerful indication that you should inquire and seek help if you suspect you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep apnea is a disordered breathing condition that causes breathing to stop during sleep while Alzheimer’s is a disease that destroys memory and other cognitive functions. Both conditions are serious on their own, but the potential link raises concerns with health professionals. Sleep apnea is also indicated in many other life-threatening diseases including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and coronary artery disease. Interestingly, Sleep Apnea is both easy to diagnose and treatment is both easy and effective so treating sleep apnea becomes one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health, longevity, and potentially memory, long term.

Linking Alzheimer’s with Sleep Apnea

The Mayo Clinic studied 228 people over the age of 65 and monitored their tau protein levels which contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

During the study, bed partners were asked to observe the study participants for signs of sleep apnea. The sleep disorder causes a person to stop breathing during the night. This can happen a few times an hour or hundreds of times a night, depending on the severity of the disorder.

43 participants were reported by their bed partners to have sleep apnea. Researchers discovered that those 43 participants also had 4.5 percent higher levels of tau protein in the cortex than those who did not have apnea.

“Since tau accumulation is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, an increase in tau raises concern that sleep apnea could make [people] with sleep apnea more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s,” said lead researcher Dr. Diego Carvalho, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. in this study supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The preliminary research indicates that there is a link between sleep apnea and tau levels in the brain. Though researchers are still trying to determine which issue comes first, the tau proteins or sleep apnea. However, you should not wait for more information if you think you might be experiencing sleep issues, you should see a professional right away to determine if you are experiencing sleep issues.

Related: What Happens to My Brain When I’m Sleep Deprived?

Diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea for Better Health

We all know how important it is to get enough sleep. It’s essential for concentration, health, and overall well-being. Sleep apnea affects a person’s quality of life and has a significant impact on future health and wellness. Lack of sleep is linked to a number of health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Unfortunately, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is significantly under-diagnosed, and people who have it may not even know there is a problem. Often, a bed partner’s complaints of snoring are the first indication that a person has this sleep disorder.

So how can you tell if you’re living with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea? Typically, if you’re having sleep problems, you will start to notice the symptoms quickly. You may have more trouble concentrating or staying awake during the day, and you might see a decline in your mood and overall wellness. The most tell-tale signs are snoring and heredity. If your parent(s) snore or have diagnosed sleep apnea, you’re inclined to also have sleep apnea.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea to Improve Brain Health

The most common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. It delivers a constant stream of air that allows a person to breathe uninterrupted during sleep.

Not only does this eliminate snoring (which bed partners certainly appreciate) but it also helps to mitigate many of the negative health impacts of obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, one study showed that damage to white matter fibers caused by sleep apnea could be fully reversed in 12 months with the use of CPAP therapy.

Of course, CPAP only works if patients use their machines every night. Using the machine only sporadically, or for periods of less than 4 hours per night doesn’t provide much benefit to sleep apnea patients. Using the machine as directed, however, can help patients improve their quality of life immensely.

If you’re noticing the signs of sleep deprivation or your partner has noticed you snoring loudly or having trouble breathing, a sleep study can determine what you should do to resolve the issues.

Scheduling an evaluation to see if you’re a candidate for a sleep study with Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee can help you get your health back on track and explore effective solutions to any sleep disorders that may be affecting your health and overall well-being. For more information, or to schedule an evaluation, call (615) 893-4896.

Subscribe to receive our top sleep tips.
Get better sleep tonight!