Man sleeping with CPAP mask

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Treat sleep apnoea early to slow the decline to dementia

Poor sleep - particularly the kind caused by obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) - is a risk factor for dementia.

Two Austin Health-based researchers have published an Insight article in this week's Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), emphasising the importance of treating sleep problems in mid-life to slow later-life cognitive impairment.

Dr. Melinda Jackson, who is a registered psychologist and research fellow at the Institute for Breathing and Sleep at Austin Health, and Dr. Marina Cavuoto, a post-doctoral research fellow at RMIT University and clinical trial coordinator based at Austin Health, explain how a good night's sleep plays a number of roles in restoring the brain.

Sleep both improves memory consolidation, and clears out toxic build-up in the brain - including of beta-amyloid.

The build-up of b-amyloid in the brain has been linked both to Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, and to excessive daytime sleepiness, self-reported poor sleep and less REM sleep.

Drs. Jackson and Cavuoto say that modifiable risk factors for dementia account for 35 per cent of dementia risk, and that there is an increasing amount of evidence that OSA contributes to a build-up of beta-amyloid and possibly to dementia. They argue that identifying and treating OSA early may slow or even halt the development of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Read more in their article in MJA Insight.