We know that sleep apnea has a long-term impact on cognition. It can lead to dementia. But it’s been harder to measure the impact of sleep apnea on your cognitive acuity daily.

Now, though, researchers have shown that they can measure cognitive changes related to sleep apnea on a daily basis. Not only that, they showed that sleep apnea treatment led to significant improvement in cognitive ability.

Older man having trouble thinking

Measuring Cognition with a Simple Test

To determine the mental acuity of sleep apnea sufferers, researchers in this study used the mini mental state examination (MMSE). The MMSE is a very basic test used to measure the mental state of people for psychological purposes, and it has a number of simple grounding questions, such as today’s date, the time, the place where the exam is taking place. There are also some simple calculations and language questions as well as spatial orientation tests. There are 30 questions on the test, and the average person is expected to get a score of at least 27. As we said, it’s a simple test.

But when the 33 sleep apnea patients took the test in this study, they got an average score of 23.5. Compare that to the score of the age-matched controls, who didn’t have sleep apnea: 28.1.

Kind of as an aside, the study also tested people’s metabolic function using a blood test for insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and found that sleep apnea sufferers had a much lower score of 79 ng/ml, while the controls had a more normal score of 149 ng/ml.

Improved Health over Three Months

To show the impact of sleep apnea treatment, patients were given CPAP treatment for three months, and then both the patients and the controls were tested again. Cognitive scores for the sleep apnea patients improved to 26.5, just a rounding error from normal, and their IGF-1 levels increased to 129. While these were both significant changes for the sleep apnea patients, the controls saw no significant changes.

Along with other evidence showing that sleep disturbance impacts memory, this new study shows us how significant sleep apnea’s impact on your ability to think can be. Importantly, it also shows that sleep apnea treatment can make a significant difference even over the relatively short term.

Sleep apnea treatment can give tangible results relatively quickly. The only thing that’s keeping you from seeing these results is not getting treatment, or not using the treatment you’ve been prescribed. If you are looking for an alternative to your CPAP, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.