People with cognitive impairment are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea and may benefit from a sleep assessment, say researchers from University of Toronto in Canada.

In a study of 67 people with an average age of 73 and cognitive impairment, more than half (52%) were found to have obstructive sleep apnea. And those with the sleep disorder were 60% more likely to score lower on a test for cognitive impairment than people who did not have sleep apnea.

What’s more, the more severe a participant’s sleep apnea, the greater their degree of cognitive impairment and reduced sleep quality. The latter included problems with the time needed to reach full sleep, sleep efficiency, and multiple night awakenings.

People with cognitive impairment should be assessed for obstructive sleep apnea and treated, concluded study author Mark I. Boulos, M.D. “Fully understanding how obstructive sleep apnea affects this population is important because with treatment, there is potential to improve thinking and memory skills as well as overall quality of life,” he said.

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 73rd Annual Meeting being held virtually in April.