Sleep Disorders Lead To Increased Dementia Risk And Long Term Care Need

Older women with sleep-disordered breathing are more likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia than women without this disorder according to a new study.

According to medical researchers, sleep-disordered breathing is a condition where the person has recurrent arousals from sleep and intermittent hypoxemia.  “This condition can be common among older people and affects up to 60 percent of the elderly population,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance

Health experts report that the condition has been linked to various adverse health problems including hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.    Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, investigated the link between prevalent sleep-disordered breathing measured and the subsequent diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

The study tested nearly 300 women who were the average age of 82.3 years.  The participants were without dementia at the start of the study.  The participants’ cognitive status was ranked as normal, dementia, or mild cognitive impairment.  The study examined measures of hypoxia, sleep fragmentation and sleep duration as underlying mechanisms for any link between sleep-disordered breathing and cognitive impairment.

According to the study, some 35.2 percent of the tested women met the criteria for sleep-disordered breathing.   Nearly an equal amount, some 35.9 percent of the women, developed mild cognitive impairment (20.1 percent) or dementia (15.8 percent) after an average follow up of 4.7 years. The study revealed, 47 of women (44.8 percent) with sleep-disordered breathing acquired mild cognitive impairment or dementia in comparison with 31.1 percent of those without sleep-disordered breathing.

Cognitive decline and dementia is a leading reason that aging senior women ultimately require costly long term care, Slome acknowledges.  “Long term care insurance can pay for qualifying care at home or in a skilled nursing home but you must apply well before a decline in mental ability or physical health takes place,” he notes.  

Planning experts advise those seeking to learn more about long-term care planning and get long-term care insurance cost contact a designated expert via the Association’s Consumer Information Center at

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