Is there a Link Between Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer’s? 
Posted December 12, 2017

An interesting correlation is evolving among those that receive memory care in Naperville: Is there a link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s? Many studies show a connection between sleep deprivation and dementia among seniors.
Most individuals that live with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia struggle with sleep; since dementia seems to contribute to sleep, could sleep apnea be a sign of an underlying dementia? While researchers continue to seek answers that could lead to more concrete ways to identify those at risk for Alzheimer’s, make sure that your loved one has the resources and providers they need to establish if they are at risk. Senior Living Experts can point toward practitioners in your region that have expertise in this complex area.

Memory Care in Naperville: Is there a Link Between Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer’s?

assisted living professionals, caregivers, and researchers have been looking to find if a link exists between poor sleep and dementia. Seniors experiencing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease often have a recorded history and documented past of sleep problems, in particularly, insomnia and sleep apnea.
Is there a link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s? Researchers in the field chime-in:

Sleep Deprivation

It has been studied and established that short-term sleep deprivation is linked to transient cognitive impairment. If so, does chronic sleep deprivation cause more lasting repercussions, such as dementia? While it has not been shown that sleep deprivation causes dementia, it does contribute to the inability to make, store, and recall memories among older individuals.

Sleep Apnea

Another memory loss study indicates that sleep apnea may speed-up the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. On average, those studied with sleep apnea were diagnosed around five years sooner for the disease than those that do not experience sleep issue. Furthermore, sleep deprivation contributes to the overall risk of dementia, and those with sleep apnea have nearly twice the risk of developing dementia.

REM Sleep

REM sleep is a critical phase of the normal sleep pattern, and studies show that those who have difficulty reaching REM sleep are more likely to have dementia. These individuals dream less- around 3% less than those enter REM sleep phase without issue.

See a practitioner to determine if sleep apnea is forecasting other symptoms of dementia

It can be difficult to determine if the signs of memory loss, confusion, or irritability are dementia or if they are simply part of the aging process. The best way to assess and diagnose is through a face-to-face visit with a provider that is familiar with the patient, and that has some experience in geriatric practice. Make note of concerning behaviors or changes in mannerisms to relay to your senior’s physician during your next visit.
Some things to look for when determining if your loved one has signs of dementia include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Mood instability
  • Aphasia or difficulty following conversations
  • Change in appetite or weight loss
  • Inability to recall events, names, etc.

While there are some behaviors and patterns that follow the natural path of aging, these examples could be indicative of an underlying issue, including Alzheimer’s disease. Make sure to report such instances to your provider, and consider using tips from professional caregivers to help your loved one during this often-difficult time.
Some ways that you can help those struggling with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia are:

  • Remain calm, don’t yell, and maintain patience. Becoming frustrated will only increase your loved one’s angst and anxiety.
  • Let your loved one speak and give them time to find the right words before attempting to help them with what they are trying to say.
  • Know that symptoms increase at night, referred to as ‘sun-downing.’ Plan visits, events, and activities earlier, during daylight, whenever possible.
  • Try to evoke memories that your loved one may hold on to, such as very long-term remembrances with photos, conversations, and walks down Memory-Lane. This may engage your senior more than talk related to recent events or situations that may not be as firmly embedded in memory.

Above all, remember that you are of little use to your loved one with dementia if you don’t take care of your own needs. Take time to unwind, decompress, and recover from the rigors of attending to those with increasing symptoms of dementia. Avoid caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue by taking care of yourself and setting firm boundaries with those around you.
Make sure to find practitioners and providers in the region with experience working with geriatric clients, as well as those with an understanding of dementia. Senior Living Experts can help you find the right physician, caregivers, and facilities to assist when you- or someone you love- is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, preventative tactics and approaches can slow the progression of these conditions, and the right medical resources are literally at your fingertips!

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