A study led by Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel of UC San Diego School of Medicine has shown that CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines can help some people suffering from Alzheimer’s to retain more mental ability.
A few details from UC San Diego:
The research team, including physicians from UC San Diego’s departments of psychiatry, medicine, neurosciences and family and preventive medicine, and Veteran’s Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, looked at 52 men and women with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep, caused by a temporary, partial, or complete blockage in the airway. The prevalence of OSA in patients with dementia has been estimated to be as high as 70 to 80 percent.
A CPAP machine is a breathing assist device worn over the mouth or nose, providing constant pressurized air and giving nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea. Participants were randomized to either therapeutic CPAP for six weeks, or a placebo CPAP for three weeks followed by therapeutic CPAP for an additional three weeks. Both groups received a complete battery of neuropsychological tests before treatment, at three and at six weeks.
A comparison of the randomized subjects receiving therapy over the first three-week period did not result in a statistically significant improvement in cognition, although all measures changed in the expected directions. However, after the placebo group was switched to therapeutic CPAP treatment, the group as a whole showed a significant improvement in cognition after three weeks of treatment.
Ancoli-Israel explained the discrepancy, stating that because of the smaller size of the first group of subjects – the half measured after three weeks on the therapy – a statistically significant difference couldn’t be shown. However, when the before-CPAP scores of the entire group of Alzheimer patients were compared to post-therapy scores, the larger sample size demonstrated improved cognition.
“The change in scores for individual tests suggested improvements in verbal learning and memory as well as some aspects of executive function such as cognitive flexibility and mental processing speed,” said Ancoli-Israel.
Study abstract: Cognitive Effects of Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized Controlled Study Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Volume 56 Issue 11, Pages 2076 – 2081
Press release: Treating Sleep Apnea in Alzheimer’s Patients Helps Cognition …
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