24.06.2024

Snoring may raise the risk of you AND your partner suffering Alzheimer’s and strokes

People who snore may have worse brain health and be more at risk of and strokes, as might their partners, suggests a new study. Those with sleep apnea, which causes loud snoring, were more likely to have biomarkers linked to the conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, .

Every 10 percent decrease in the amount of deep sleep changes people’s brains and increases the white matter as if they’re 2.3 years older.

And there is growing evidence that less deep sleep increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, due to a build up of toxins that would otherwise be removed.

A snoring sleeper can also disturb their partner’s sleep, preventing them from reaching deep sleep needed for brain health

A snoring sleeper can also disturb their partner's sleep, preventing them from reaching deep sleep needed for brain health

These signs included white matter abnormalities, which causes stress on neurons in the brain and increases their energy demands. Neurons unable to meet the demands will die, shrinking the brain.

The study involved 140 people with obstructive sleep apnea with an average age of 73 — each had a brain scan and overnight stay in a sleep lab.

None of the participants had cognitive issues at the start of the study or dementia by the end of it.

A total of 34 percent had mild sleep apnea, 32 percent moderate and 34 severe.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include stopping breathing, making gasping and choking noises and stirring in the night, meaning people have less deep sleep which is essential for the brain to eliminate potentially harmful waste products.

One of the markers is tiny lesions visible on brain scans, known as white matter hyperintensities, which become more common with age or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Dr Diego Carvalho of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said: ‘These biomarkers are sensitive signs of early cerebrovascular disease.

‘Finding that severe sleep apnea and a reduction in slow-wave sleep are associated with these biomarkers is important since there is no treatment for these changes in the brain, so we need to find ways to prevent them from happening or getting worse.

‘More research is needed to determine whether sleep issues affect these brain biomarkers or vice versa.

‘We also need to look at whether strategies to improve sleep quality or treatment of sleep apnea can affect the trajectory of these biomarkers.’

The sleep study examined how long people spent in deep sleep, believed to be one of the best markers of sleep quality.

Experts found for every 10 percent decrease of deep sleep the white matter hyperintensities increase, similar to being 2.3 years older.

Those with severe sleep apnea had more white matter hyperintensities than those with mild or moderate conditions, and the integrity of their brain’s axons were decreased that link nerve cells.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

Dr Pauline Balagny from University of Paris-Cité, whose research was published in the journal ERJ Open Research, said: ‘We know that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a major health hazard but if patients are diagnosed with the condition, they can be given treatments and advice to mitigate the risks.

‘Our study suggests that OSA is common, but the majority of those affected do not know they have the condition.’

There are five stages of sleep, including light sleep, which accounts for roughly half our sleep time. It is also when we are most likely to disturbed by noises and thus woken up by a partner snoring.

This may mean we miss out on stages of deep and REM sleep, which has a detrimental effect on the brain, as the less deep sleep means the brain ages at a quicker rate.

A separate study from the Faculty of Medicine at University of Paris-Cité, France, claimed that one in five (20.2 percent) of us have sleep apnea but only 3.5 percent are getting treatment.

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