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Fri 02 October 2020:

New research has confirmed link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease, after uncovering identical signs of brain damage in both conditions. The results of the clinical study carried out by Australian and Icelandic researchers, and led by RMIT University, has been published in the journal Sleep.

It has widespread implications with around one-in-four Australian men over 30 who have some degree of sleep apnea – a serious condition that occurs when a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown. Study leader Professor Stephen Robinson said scientists already knew Alzheimer’s and sleep apnea were somehow linked. “We know that if you have sleep apnea in mid-life, you’re more likely to develop Alzheimer’s when you’re older, and if you have Alzheimer’s you are more likely to have sleep apnea than other people your age,” he said

In a previous study, scientists highlighted the vital role that sleep plays in brain health, and found an abrupt transition at about 2.4 years of age when its primary purpose shifts from brain-building to maintenance and repair.

According to Reuters, researchers conducted a statistical analysis on data from more than 60 sleep studies. They looked at sleep time, duration of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, brain size, and body size, and devised a mathematical model for how sleep changes during development.

There are basically two types of sleep, each tied to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. REM, with the eyes moving quickly from side to side behind closed eyelids, is deep sleep with vivid dreams. Non-REM sleep is largely dreamless.

At about 2.4 years of age, the findings showed, sleep’s primary function changed from building and cutting connections during REM sleep to neural repair during both REM and non-REM sleep.

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