Boulos is with the University of Toronto in Canada and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved 67 people with an average age of 73 who had cognitive impairment, which includes memory and thinking problems that affect concentration, decision making and learning new things.
In addition to answering questionnaires on sleep, cognition and mood, the participants also took a 30-point cognitive assessment to determine their level of impairment. Participants also were given at-home sleep apnea tests to determine if they had obstructive sleep apnea.
That last test showed 52% of the participants had obstructive sleep apnea and that 60% of those people scored lower on the cognitive test than those who did not have sleep apnea. The severity of a person’s apnea also corresponded with the degree of impairment, the researchers found.
“People with cognitive impairment should be assessed for obstructive sleep apnea because it can be treated by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that helps keep the airway open at night,” Boulos said. “However, not everyone who tries CPAP chooses to regularly use the therapy, and this may be a bigger challenge to people with thinking and memory problems. Future research should be directed toward determining ways to diagnose and manage the disease that are efficient and easy to use in people with cognitive impairment.”