Treating Sleep Disorders in Seniors may Prevent Alzheimer’s

Good Sleep may Prevent Alzheimer’s

Is your Loved one Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?

Proper Sleep can Restore Memory and Retard the Progression of Dementia

A professor, Kathy Richards, at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Nursing has found that overcoming sleep disturbances in seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can help restore cognitive ability and retard the progression of the dementia.

More than 60% of Seniors with Alzheimer’s Suffered from Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Kathy Richards tested sleep patterns in seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s by using polysomnography, a sleep test method that is usually used in sleep laboratories, to study sleep patterns and to diagnose disruptive problems in achieving a normal night’s sleep. She and fellow researchers conducted more than 200 tests on seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, who were in nursing homes or in their own homes in the community. The researchers discovered that more than 60% of them suffered from a severe form of sleep apnea, which prevented them from having a good night’s sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the person stops breathing one or more times during sleep. This causes the brain to be damaged from a lack of oxygen. She wondered if they had suffered from sleep apnea before they contracted Alzheimer’s, or if the apnea was a result of Alzheimer’s. She also wanted to find out if the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s could be delayed by diagnosing and treating sleep apnea while the patients were still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Memories 1 Study

After receiving funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to find out the answer as to whether correcting disruptive sleep patterns in Alzheimer’s seniors could retard the progression of the disease, Kathy Richards began her research. The participants were 83 seniors with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) enrolled in the Memories 1 Study and the results showed that using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for sleep apnea was beneficial for cognitive function for seniors with obstructive sleep apnea. Since the results showed that the memory of the participants improved after getting proper sleep, the NIH gave Kathy Richards funding to do a second study.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Many seniors with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) will progress to Alzheimer’s, although some seniors with MCI remain that way.

Memories 2 Study

Kathy Richards with colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania, St. Louis University and the University of Virginia will carry out the study on 450 seniors ages 55-75 who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The participants will be recruited from Philadelphia, Austin, Charlottesville, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri.

CPAP Intervention

The researchers hope to show that CPAP intervention in seniors with MCI who have obstructive sleep apnea will prevent them from developing full Alzheimer’s dementia. Richards estimates that ¾ of the participants will be found to have obstructive sleep apnea. These will be treated with CPAP in the hope that no further damage will happen to their brains from oxygen starvation during attacks of obstructive sleep apnea.


Let us hope that this further study will confirm the results of the previous study, that obstructive sleep apnea which cuts off oxygen to the brain during attacks of apnea and thus damages the brain may be the reason why so many seniors are developing Alzheimer’s. Richards estimates that ¾ of seniors suffering from MCI are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.

If your loved one has mild cognitive impairment (MCI) take them to a sleep laboratory to be tested for obstructive sleep apnea. If it is found then CPAP treatment may prevent them from the downward path to full Alzheimer’s disease.










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