People who snore 'more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease'

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People who snore are at greater risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers have said.

Scientists at Harvard University found that disorders such as sleep apnea that disrupt sleep are linked to greater cognitive decline, especially among those with a gene that predisposes them to Alzheimer’s

Loss of memory and thinking function were reported to be particularly poor in people who both suffer a sleep disorder and also carry a gene called the apolipoprotein ε-4 (APOE-ε4) allele, linked to greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

About 20 per cent of the population are thought to carry the APOE-ε4 allele, while snoring is believed to affect up to 40 per cent.

The researchers found that a condition called increased overnight hypoxemia, in which blood oxygen levels fall, and increased daytime sleepiness were associated with poorer attention span and memory.

More daytime sleepiness was also linked to slower thinking speed, while sleep apnea was tied to poorer attention and thinking speed.

The links were strongest in carriers of the Alzheimer’s risk gene APOE-ε4.

Sleep apnea, in which sufferers briefly stop breathing as many as 30 times per hour during the night, is marked by loud, heavy snoring.

“Our study provides further evidence that sleep-disordered breathing negatively affects attention, processing speed and memory, which are robust predictors of cognitive decline,” said senior study author Susan Redline, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Given the lack of effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, our results support the potential for sleep-disordered breathing screening and treatment as part of a strategy to reduce dementia risk.”

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