Sleep apnea may lead to early onset of memory and thinking problems as well as Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study in Neurology, which examined the medical records of 2,470 people ages 55 to 90. Sleep apnea causes repeated episodes of obstructed breathing, usually following loud snoring.
After researchers adjusted the data for age, obesity, depression, and other dementia risk factors, they found that when people with sleep apnea developed major cognitive decline, they did so about a decade earlier, on average, than those without apnea; they developed Alzheimer’s disease five years earlier. However, people who treated their sleep apnea with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine developed cognitive problems only slightly earlier than those without sleep apnea.
While this was only an observational study, it adds cognitive problems to the long list of known or suspected health problems related to sleep apnea.
See also: Don't Ignore Sleep Apnea.