As dental sleep medicine specialists, we don’t need another reason why treating sleep apnea is so important. But we do. People with obstructive sleep apnea who receive treatment with the commonly-prescribed positive airway pressure are less likely to be diagnosed with dementia. That is great news! Let’s take a closer look at that impact. 

Sleep apnea treatment impact on dementia

There is a new study out of Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Centers that found that older adults who received positive airway pressure therapy for treatment of their obstructive sleep apnea may be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In this study, researchers analyzed Medicare claims for more than 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older who had been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. 

From that data, they examined if those people who used positive airway pressure therapy were less likely to receive a new diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment over the next three years compared to those who did not receive treatment. This suggests that positive airway pressure may be protective against dementia risk in people with sleep apnea.

What this means

These findings show just how important it is to understand the impact of sleep on cognitive function. If there is a causal pathway between sleep apnea treatment and dementia risk, then diagnosis and effective treatment of sleep apnea can play a key role in the cognitive health of older adults, which is key. 

With this information, it is time that we enhance and improve how we reach our patients, especially older adults. If we can treat sleep apnea and prevent dementia, that is a win-win.