Is There a Link Between Sleep Apnea and Cognitive Decline?

We’ve all woken up feeling groggy, as if we didn’t get quite enough sleep. When this happens (especially multiple nights in a row), you feel it. Things aren’t the same. It’s as if your thinking is one or two steps behind.

For millions of people in the United States and around the world, this problem is far more serious than losing a few hours of sleep. It’s due to an underlying condition known as obstructive sleep apnea.

While a classic sign of sleep apnea is snoring, it’s about much more than just that. In fact, in a study conducted by New York University researchers published in Neurology, sleep apnea sufferers may experience mild cognitive impairment (MCI) up to 10 years earlier than those who do not suffer from apnea.

In addition, the study also suggests that individuals who suffer from sleep apnea may develop Alzheimer’s disease at an accelerated rate, as much as five years earlier (to read more about the study, click here.

Simply put, sleep apnea isn’t just a loud snoring problem; it’s a serious medical issue with long-term consequences.


Why does sleep apnea affect cognitive functioning?

While researchers are still ironing out the specifics, it’s believed that a lack of oxygen and consistent cessations in breathing contribute to an accelerated mental decline over a prolonged period of time.

Dr. Osorio, the lead researcher conducting the NYU study, was careful to note that these findings were part of an observational study and do not yet indicate a cause and effect relationship. However, the correlation between sleep apnea and cognitive decline is interesting and will garner further study.


What can you do about your sleep apnea and cognitive impairment?

dementia-squareIf you feel that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or think you may be experiencing a decline in your cognitive abilities, it’s time to see a doctor.

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea typically involves either a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device or an oral appliance. Both are effective for treating sleep apnea, but many people now prefer an oral appliance like the ones provided at our
dental practice.

The CPAP machine is loud, cumbersome, and patient compliance is often a major issue. This is why many individuals who suffer from sleep apnea are now looking to easier, more efficient alternatives such as an oral device.


How does an oral appliance help with the treatment of sleep apnea?

While we use a variety of oral appliances depending on each patient’s needs, the general principle behind treatment of obstructive sleep apnea with a dental or oral appliance therapy involves positioning the jaw forward to maintain an open airway.

The device is worn much like a mouthguard or retainer, and for many patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea this decreases the frequency of apnea episodes.


Is oral appliance therapy right for me?

Cognitive impairment due to sleep apnea is a serious medical concern and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If you believe you are suffering from sleep apnea, then we encourage you to contact us today to schedule your at-home sleep apnea test. These tests are fast, accurate, and best of all, you do not have to spend a night in a hospital or a medical facility for a sleep study.

If you do have mild to moderate sleep apnea, then Dr. Brown will talk with you to discuss your options in regards to oral appliance therapy. If you live in or around the Babylon or Patchogue area don’t hesitate to call us. We’re here to help!


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