There is some evidence that sleep disordered breathing may contribute to cognitive impairment among older adults. If this is the case, treatment of the disorder may be an effective way to prevent cognitive decline for many.
A significant finding in a recent study shows that obstructive sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing are increasing in prevalence in the older adult population; the cause is unknown. Older adults with dementia appear to have a greater rate of sleep disorders than the general older adult population, though it is unclear whether one condition causes the other, or whether both share an underlying cause.
There seem to be a few plausible relationships between sleep disordered breathing and cognitive decline. It has been thought that the oxygen deficit that can occur from sleep apnea may explain some of the apparent relationship between sleep disordered breathing and cognitive impairment. Some research suggests that younger adults with sleep apnea are more vulnerable to suffering cognitive effects than are older adults with sleep apnea, while some suggests that sleep apnea may explain some cognitive impairment in older adults. Some researchers believe that it is through fragmentation and disruption of sleep that sleep disordered breathing can cause cognitive impairment. It is widely believed that individuals with mild cognitive impairment are more vulnerable to the affects of sleep disordered breathing.
While research is ongoing, it is widely accepted belief that a good nights’ sleep is always healthy.