In recent decades, research into obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has established that this common disorder can cause or worsen a number of significant health problems, including cardiovascular problems, obesity, and depression. Recently, a study has even indicated that OSA may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. After considering the link between sleep apnea and long-term brain health, you may finally decide it is time to seek out treatment that will help you achieve the high-quality rest your body and mind need to function at their best.
OSA and the Brain Protein Tau
Alzheimer’s research has found two different proteins in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the proteins, called tau, helps to stabilize brain cells — but only when it is functioning properly. Tau becomes dangerous when it clumps together. Tau accumulations form tangles, which damage the surrounding cells and play a role in cognitive decline.
Recently, scientists at the Mayo clinic found a link between obstructive sleep apnea and increased levels of tau. In the study, nearly 300 participants who were at least 65 years of age were asked if their sleeping partner exhibited signs of sleep apnea. The people who were observed to have OSA symptoms had 4.5 percent higher levels of tau in their brains than healthy, normal sleepers.
Does OSA Cause Alzheimer’s?
The above mentioned study has a few significant limitations. It is important to note that none of the study participants were already suffering from dementia, not even the ones with higher levels of tau. However, because tau accumulations are often a precursor of dementia, it is possible that they will develop Alzheimer’s later on. The study was also a very small sample size, and the researchers did not officially confirm an OSA diagnosis in the individuals who experienced OSA symptoms.
With the foregoing in mind, it is reasonable to say that sleep apnea might contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. More research is necessary before any definitive conclusions can be drawn about the association between the two conditions.
What It Means for You
Whether or not sleep apnea has a direct impact on Alzheimer’s risk, it remains vital that everyone does all they can to get an adequate amount of high-quality sleep each night. In fact, treating OSA might indirectly lower your risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s. For example, research indicates that regular exercise can do much to reduce Alzheimer’s risk. If you are well-rested, you may be more likely to get the activity that your body and mind need in order to thrive.
Do you have obstructive sleep apnea? Seeking diagnosis and treatment could be the key to protecting your brain’s long-term functionality.
About Our Practice
At Family Dental Practice of Newington, we offer a broad range of general dentistry services. We also offer a few advanced services, including sleep apnea therapy. With a simple, custom-made oral appliance, we may be able to help you find relief from OSA and enjoy more restful sleep each night. To learn more about this service, contact our team today at 860-665-0444.