You’re a middle-aged man. And you’re in good shape. You’re not overweight, you stick to a healthy diet, you don’t smoke, your alcohol intake is minimal, and you work out regularly.
But you have obstructive sleep apnea.
Turns out, that one strike against you is enough to cause cognitive decline. A new study examined men aged 35 to 70 who had been diagnosed with mild to severe sleep apnea, but were otherwise healthy. A separate control group was also recruited, made up of men who were healthy and hadn’t been diagnosed with OSA. Both groups were given a battery of tests.
The study found that the group of men who suffered from untreated sleep apnea experienced reduced mental function in areas such as impulse control, judgment and recognizing the feelings of others. The study also showed that the men with obstructive sleep apnea had reduced attention spans, executive functioning and short-term visual recognition memory.
Possibly worst of all? The study also demonstrated that those cognitive deficits rose with increasing severity. In other words, the worse the sleep apnea, the more extreme the cognitive decline.
As we’ve shared in other blog posts, untreated sleep apnea is strongly correlated with a number of other conditions, including heart disease, stroke and glaucoma, alongside a range of psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. But it was long believed that the cognitive decline associated with sleep apnea was due to one of those related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. But according to this study, that’s just not the case. Sleep apnea is enough to cause cognitive decline in otherwise healthy individuals – there aren’t any other associated conditions to blame.
If you think you’ve developed obstructive sleep apnea, it’s time to stop suffering. Contact us today for an at-home sleep study.
- Sleep apnea is linked to cognitive problems even in otherwise healthy men (NBC News)
- For The First Time, Sleep Apnea Is Shown to Cause Cognitive Decline (Science Alert)
We’ve highlighted a number of health risks associated with poor sleep, including depression. Now more data has surfaced to back up our claim.
The National Sleep Foundation has released new findings from its annual poll on American sleep habits, this year focusing on the connection between sleep and mental health. Their poll, which was focused on a sample from the general US adult population, found that American adults with good sleep were less likely to have significant depressive symptoms: more than 90% of adults polled who enjoy very good sleep health also reported an absence of elevated depressive symptoms.
Conversely, the poll revealed that almost seven in ten adults who are dissatisfied with their sleep experience mild or greater levels of depressive symptoms. And it doesn’t take much loss of sleep to have it happen: people with difficulties falling or staying asleep just two nights a week have higher levels of depressive symptoms than those without sleep difficulties. Additionally, 50% of all adults who sleep less than the NSF-recommended seven to nine hours experience mild or greater levels of depressive symptoms.
“One unique aspect of this year’s research was how we combined NSF’s multiple validated measures of the population’s sleep health with an established measure of depressive symptoms to examine the link between sleep health and depressive symptoms in the general population,” said Joseph Dzierzewski, PhD, Vice President of Research and Scientific Affairs at the National Sleep Foundation. “As a licensed clinician, I’d say there’s never been a more important time to think about the strong connection between our sleep and mental health.”
If you’re experiencing severe depression – in other words, if you believe you may be at risk of suicide – seek immediate help. Reach out to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.
- NSF Poll Highlights Strong Link Between Sleep and Depressive Symptoms in US Population (National Sleep Foundation press release)
- A Good Night’s Sleep May Ward Off Depression (UPI)