Sleep apnea is a breathing condition where a person stops breathing multiple times during the night, resulting in poor quality sleep and fatigue during the day. Sleep apnea has been linked to a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, risk of stroke, and heart disease. Additional research suggests that those with sleep apnea are up to 5 times more likely to die of heart disease. But what about Alzheimer's?
Connection Between Sleep Apnea & Alzheimer's
New research suggests a link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer's disease. Brain scans of those with sleep apnea show a buildup of a certain kind of plaque, called beta-amyloid, which is one of the key markers of Alzheimer's. However, the research also suggests that addressing sleep apnea in it's early stages might help slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
While scientists still aren't quite sure why sleep apnea causes a buildup of beta-amyloid, some think it's because of a lack of REM sleep. When sleep is interrupted multiple times during the night, the brain can't enter deeper levels of sleep, like REM. REM sleep has lots of important functions for the body and brain, including clearing away toxins from the brain. If these toxins are allowed to build up because of a lack of deep sleep, those deprived of sleep usually suffer from decreased cognitive abilities. This might be the link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer's.
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