KANSAS CITY, Mo. -– You may have some holiday guests who raise the roof with their snoring. You may also notice a decline in their memory. The two issues can be related.
Snoring can be hilarious, but not loud, disruptive snoring every night. It can be a sign of sleep apnea, lapses in breathing that are usually caused by the airway collapsing. Dave Davis found out he had it when he had breathing trouble following surgery.
A sleep study at Saint Luke’s Hospital found Davis stopped breathing an average of 39 times an hour. In at least one instance, the lapse was 45 seconds long.
He awakened repeatedly with those lapses which explained his sleepiness during the day. He also had trouble remembering where he was going.
“One of my friends used to say ‘I hate going somewhere with Dave because we can be going 5 miles down the road and he drives 20 to get there’,” said Davis.
Recent research finds people 55 and older who have untreated sleep apnea begin their decline in memory and thinking much earlier than those without the disorder. On average, it was at age 77 compared to age 90. Those who developed Alzheimer’s Disease developed it five years earlier.
Dr. Jason Graff, a sleep specialist at Saint Luke’s, says the association makes sense considering people with untreated apnea aren’t getting enough oxygen to the brain.
“If you don’t think you’re as sharp as you used to be, if you have snoring, fatigue or sleepiness as well, sleep apnea may be a cause of that and treating that may be able to get your memory back,” said Dr. Graff.
Davis went on CPAP. A machine delivers mild air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. He’s noticed a difference on the job as a security guard.
“I probably have 100 people come through and I recognize all of them. Before, it would be just another face,” said Davis.
He has no more memory trouble and no more sleepiness during the day.
The research is in the journal Neurology. Dr. Graff says spouses are usually the ones who notice the signs of sleep apnea including the breathing lapses.