In Brief: Study suggests a link between sleep-disordered breathing and later cognitive decline

Published: November, 2011

Sleep-disordered breathing affects as many as 60% of older adults, disrupting sleep. One of the most common problems is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway becomes blocked, causing a nearly suffocating lack of oxygen and buildup of carbon dioxide.

Although people with sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing problems may develop short-term deficits in memory and thinking, it was not clear whether this had any long-term effect. Now a study in elderly women suggests that sleep-disordered breathing increases the likelihood of cognitive decline and dementia later on.

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