How Snoring Can Affect the Brain

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMay 13, 2015

Between 19-40% of all adults snore, with the number rising as we age. Besides being troublesome for those sharing a bed, snoring is a form of sleep apnea, which a new study says can have harmful effects on cognitive health.

Learn more about how snoring can affect the brain and about the importance of sleep in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep Disorders and Alzheimer’s

Snoring can be annoying for those sharing a bed, but a new study says that snoring may have long term lasting effects on the brain. Snoring is a type of sleep apnea, and a new study published in Neurology has found that people who have sleep apnea are more likely to show signs of cognitive impairment earlier than those who do not have a sleep disorder.

The NYU Center for Brain Health asked 2,000 people ranging from the age of 55-75 with varying levels of cognitive ability about their snoring habits. Then researchers followed up with them to note any changes in their cognitive ability. Those participants who said that they do have sleep apnea or snore, developed signs of mild cognitive impairment about 12 years earlier than those who did not report any sleep apnea or snoring.

Researchers accounted for genetics, gender, education, depression and other risk factors for cognitive impairment and still found a strong connection between sleep apnea and cognitive decline. Researchers also found a correlation between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s, but because sleep disorders can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s, it is not certain if those who had already developed the disease could accurately report their sleeping habits.

The Importance of Quality Sleep in Alzheimer’s Prevention

While researchers are not yet clear on how sleep disorders and disrupted breathing can increase the risk of cognitive impairment, researchers believe it may be because during the time of disrupted breathing, the brain is deprived of critical oxygen and is slowing blood flow to the brain. Alzheimer’s has been linked to slow blood flow in the brain, typically caused by hypertension or high cholesterol.

Another theory is that the brain needs sleep to rid itself of amyloid, a protein commonly thought to cause Alzheimer’s. Sleep apnea decreases the quality of sleep, can rouse people out of sleep and stop the brain from its waste removal. Over time, amyloid could build up and into the plaques that are often seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Have you seen a correlation between poor quality of sleep and a loved one’s cognitive impairment? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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