Sleep-Disordered Breathing Associated With Increased Risk of Cognitive Impairment Interview with:
Yue Leng, M.Phil, MD, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Psychiatry,
University of California, San Francisco
SFVAMC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a very common but treatable condition in older adults. Recent evidence has suggested a link between SDB and cognitive decline in the elderly, but previous studies have been conflicting and have used different methods to examine SDB or cognition. Therefore, it is difficult to draw conclusion on the consistency of this association based on each individual study. Moreover, because each study has reported on specific domains using different scales, it is unclear if Sleep-disordered breathing has differential effects on cognitive domains.

The current study is the first to quantitively synthesize all published population-based studies, which covers a total of over 4 million adults, and concluded that people with Sleep-disordered breathing were 26% more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those without SDB. They also had slightly worse performance in executive function but not in global cognition or memory. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: First, people should pay more attention to their sleep problems such as sleep apnea. Identification of sleep apnea in elderly persons might help predict future risk of cognitive impairment. Clinicians should closely follow patients who experience significant levels of SDB for the occurrence of cognitive dysfunction and might consider administering full neuropsychological batteries in some instances. This is potentially important for the early detection of dementia. Moreover, sleep apnea could potentially lead to other health consequences such as cognitive impairment, and should therefore be diagnosed and treated promptly. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future studies are required to examine whether treatment of  Sleep-disordered breathing could benefit cognition and reduce the risk of dementia in the long term. Besides, more research is needed to help understand underlying mechanisms. 

No disclosures Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Leng Y, McEvoy CT, Allen IE, Yaffe K. Association of Sleep-Disordered Breathing With Cognitive Function and Risk of Cognitive ImpairmentA Systematic Review Meta-analysisJAMA Neurol. Published online August 28, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.2180

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

[wysija_form id=”5″]






Last Updated on August 30, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD