Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common but serious chronic condition associated with snoring that increases your risk for cardiovascular conditions and other illnesses and is a major cause of daytime fatigue.
OSA is frequently associated with obesity or overweight, but can occur in people of any weight at any age. It causes you to have shallow breathing or pauses in your breathing while you sleep that can last for seconds or minutes, up to more than 30 times per hour. Normal breathing tends to resume with a loud choking or snorting sound that can disrupt sleep. Shallow or absent breathing also causes you to shift out of deep sleep into light sleep, further contributing to feeling fatigued during the day.
In a study published earlier this year by Oxford University’s journal Sleep, Dr. Claudio Liguri and his team compared psychoneurological test results for 35 people with sleep apnea to 15 controls with normal breathing during sleep.
They found that those with untreated OSA had elevated biomarkers akin to those found in people with early Alzheimer’s Disease. In the group with sleep apnea, those who were being treated with CPAP machines to aid breathing while they slept had biomarker levels that were similar to those of the control group. These observations led to the conclusion that there may be a reversible link between early Alzheimer’s Disease and OSA.
The nature of the association is still being researched. In another study released this year, a team of scientists led by Omonigho Michael Bubu at the University of South Florida looked at how these biomarkers varied among people with OSA who also had cognitive impairment.
In their conclusions, they stated OSA appears to accelerate changes over time in the deposition of the protein amyloid, associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, and biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of people with OSA who are cognitively normal and those with mild impairment.
While both studies recommended more research to confirm findings and refine the understanding to the link between obstructive sleep apnea and the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, they both contribute to the recognition that sleep apnea is a serious condition with even more serious consequences when left untreated.
 Liguori, Claudio, et al. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea is Associated With Early but Possibly Modifiable Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarkers Changes.” Sleep 40.5 (2017).
 Bubu, Omonigho Michael, et al. “EFFECT OF OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA) ON RATE OF CHANGE OF AD BIOMARKERS IN COGNITIVELY NORMAL, MCI AND AD ELDERLY: FINDINGS FROM THE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE NEUROIMAGING INITIATIVE (ADNI) COHORT.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association 13.7 (2017): P1008-P1009.