Dentist - Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, PS

Disrupted Sleep Could Increase the Risk for Alzheimer's

A new study from Washington University in St. Louis has found a link between disrupted sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. The study, conducted in partnership with Stanford University and Radbound University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and published in the medical journal Brain, shows that continued poor sleep during middle age could increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease as the patient ages.  

Interrupted Sleep Could Have Serious Long-Term Consequences

During the study, healthy adults were awakened as they entered what researchers called "slow-wave sleep." This is the same stage of sleep that is disrupted when a patient suffers from sleep apnea, said Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, a dentist who treats patients with sleep apnea in Everett, Washington.

"People with chronic sleep problems often don’t realize the long-term, very serious consequences to their health," she said. "This research confirms that sleep apnea and other sleep disorders aren’t just annoying, they can be detrimental to a patient’s health and their quality of life."

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the Most Common Sleep Disorder

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep disorders. In addition, 20 million people suffer from occasional sleep issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sleep issues in the United States have become a public health problem because they can lead to motor vehicle accidents, work-related accidents and other medical and occupational problems.

More than 25 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. It can lead to a host of other health problems including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, dementia, obesity, depression and diabetes. The AADSM estimates that 50 percent of patients with obstructive sleep apnea don’t adhere to their continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine treatment as prescribed.

CPAP Machines Not the Only Solution

The most popular recommended treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder, is the use of a CPAP machine to keep the throat open and air flowing safely during sleep. While the machine is highly effective at treating the disorder, it has come under some scrutiny for being loud and uncomfortable. Some patients have so much trouble sleeping with the machine that they choose to suffer through sleep apnea rather than wear it, Norman said.

"Many people don’t realize dentists offer an alternative treatment solution that is both effective and often more comfortable," she said. "The mandibular advancement device looks like a mouth guard worn in sports and is custom made to fit the patient's mouth perfectly."

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that CPAP machines and dental appliances are both appropriate first-line treatment options for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

"The big picture is that we want patients to find a solution, whichever they prefer, to treat sleep apnea so that no long-term damage is done," Norman said.

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