Healthy sleep patterns are crucial to humans' well-being. Unhealthy sleep patterns can affect a person's quality of life and increase their odds of dealing with other health problems. Among the most common of sleep disturbances is sleep apnea, which affects millions of Americans. Sleep apnea is a condition where a person's breathing stops and starts in cycles. Some common symptoms include snoring loudly, feeling drowsy even after getting a full night's rest, dry mouth, and waking up gasping for air. The most common type of sleep apnea is when the throat muscles relax, called obstructive sleep apnea. New research suggests that people suffering from sleep apnea may also be at an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Accumulation Of Tau Protein Tangles
The new research study comes from Dr. Diego Carvalho, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, who will soon present the study findings at the American Academy of Neurology meeting. Carvalho explained that the main factor linking dementia and sleep apnea is the accumulation of "tau," a protein that causes tangles in the brain and is present in Alzheimer patients.
"Since tau accumulation is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, an increase in tau raises concern that sleep apnea could make with sleep apnea more vulnerable to Alzheimer's," Carvalho explained.
Linking Sleep Apnea To Dementia
What's still unclear, however, is whether Alzheimer's disease predisposes people to the chronic sleep condition, or if there is a "bidirectional relationship" between the two. Further research is needed to determine whether sleep apnea treatment can aid in the prevention of tau buildup and decrease a person's risk of dementia. Another important aspect to note is that the brain makes memories during sleep. Therefore, any disruptions or disturbances during sleep may impact the quality of thinking and memory processes in a person. Anyone experiencing unhealthy sleeping patterns should seek treatment with their doctor.
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