Study says sleep disorder may increase risk of developing Alzheimer's disease - Alzheimer’s Society comments

Disordered breathing during sleep is linked to a key hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research.

The research was published online in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnea Severity Affects Amyloid Burden in Cognitively Normal Elderly: A Longitudinal Study’ researchers report that biomarkers for amyloid beta, the plaque-building peptides associated with Alzheimer's disease, increase over time in elderly adults with OSA in proportion to OSA severity.

Individuals with more apneas per hour had greater accumulation of brain amyloid over time, according to researchers at the New York University School of Medicine.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'The results of this study suggest sleep apnoea increases the presence of a toxic protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, called amyloid, in the brain. The researchers also found that sleep apnoea appears to affect amyloid not just in the short term, but over a long period of time.

'The people with sleep apnoea in the study didn’t show decline in memory or thinking, and we know that the presence of toxic amyloid clumps alone are not enough to know whether someone will get Alzheimer’s, so we need to dig deeper. To do this we’d like to see a trial of treatments for sleep apnoea, to find out if any could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

'It’s important to talk to your GP if you have a sleep disorder and are concerned about your health.'

Find out what dementia research Alzheimer's Society is funding.