A new study from UCSF and the California Pacific Medical Center suggests that people who suffer from sleep apnea — brief pauses of breathing during the night — may also be at increased risk of developing dementia. We discuss sleep apnea, and the current state of diagnosis and treatment.

The federal government estimates that more than 12 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea, many of them undiagnosed.

Sleep Apnea 11 August,2011forum

Katie Stone, co-author of the new study, epidemiologist focused on sleep disturbances and senior scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute
Edward Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association
Clete Kushida, neurologist and sleep specialist at Stanford University

  • Deborah Mcclenaghan

    they say i am stopping breathing 9 times a hour have jugt got a cpap machine 2 weeks ago but not making any difference to my energy level still need to sleep dutin the day debbie n.ireland xx

    • CP

      The doctors on your show are being too polite with the uninformed callers today. Apnea is caused mainly by a physical problem in the back of one’s throat.  Weight loss or yoga cannot reform your tongue and pallet to prevent apnea.  If you have it, find the will to take the tests and learn to use CPAP, or suffer greatly.Charles in Mt View

  • @f33965604d9b84e79bbd4b50c8d85e17:disqus —  improvements in wakefulness can be slow in coming sometimes. You should schedule a follow up visit with your doctor to review how treatment is going and whether adjustments are needed.

  • Sassan

    What is the relation between Seizure  and Sleep Apnea?

    • Sassan… there is a connection. Go to the National Library of Medicine  web site – and search on sleep apnea and epilepsy.

  • Karen, in Palo alto

     My boyfriend has explored options about 5 years ago for his apnea, but refuses to go to the doctor now.  Can you the guests talk about what is new in the area and why it could be valuable to revisit the issue with his doctor now? 

    • Karen… there are new therapies available and ones in the pipeline. Have him check on Provent as one available now and neurostimulation in the near future.

  • rick

    I have troubled with anxiety for a decade.  I have been treated for depression, but poor sleep seems to be at the core of the problem.  If I don’t take sleep medication every night, I will wake every 90 minutes and experience night sweats.  Effectively, I have a sleep maintenance problem.
    I would like to be tested for a cure, but I’ve heard that sleep clinics mostly only test for sleep apnea and are a waste of money.  Where should I go to find a permanent solution?

    • Rick… you may be surprised to learn that the reason you are waking up so frequently is due not breathing, same for the night sweats. Talk to your doctor about a home sleep study to rule out sleep apnea.  Also check on your sleep hygiene – info on our site –

      • Rick_riley

        Ed….thanks for your advice.

  • Raphaela Bazalgette

    My father was diagnosed with sleep apnea and his treatment has changed his life. He had serious attention problems and had problems listening to his wife and children, not to mention his low energy levels and frustration of never feeling well rested. He is now using the breathing machine and he is a new person! It’s like having a newly improved father! He’s 55 now, and he’s younger than I remember him as a 35 year old!

    Many thanks,

    • Raphaela, that is great news! Have him share his experience with his friends. He may just save a life.

  • Sleepness, but not in Seattle

    I was diagnosed with apnea a year ago, but despite my best efforts, I have yet to be able to adjust to the mask and nasal pillows.  In addition to that extreme aggravation (which is exacerbated because the doctor is not the least bit empathetic to the adjustment or lack thereof), the insurance company is now insisting that I pay more than $400 out of my own pocket (though they agreed to do so when I was first diagnosed) because I didn’t return to my doctor EVERY MONTH to have her “prove” usage and benefits.  I believe the whole thing is one huge scam.

    • Sleepness… there are good doctors and not so good doctors out there.

  • Donson_toy

    I have done Sleep studies five times in the last 8 years. Each time, prescribed CPAP.  This has not helped, being uncomfortable, and detracting from restful sleep.
    Have done the nasal operation initially, with moderate success, then relapse.  and did another sleep study, with direction of CPAP, and found it distracting, and stopped after a couple of months of fussing with it.
    Months later, consulted to undergo UPPP,  with some improvement.
    lastly, I did a repose (under jaw process), with little improvement.  followed up with medical specialist again, and re-suggested using the CPAP again.

    I can not use CPAP, and have not found a better solution to date.  So I continue to suffer thoughout the days and nights.

    • Donson_toy… think about getting a psychologist to help you with congitive behavior therapy on the CPAP. You would be surprised how it can help.

  • soundhealer

    There is another aid for sleep apnea. Learning to play the didgeridoo.
    It has been proven through medical trials that playing this wind instrument helps with sleep apnea. I used to snore so badly that my girlfriend would be woken up even when wearing ear plugs.
    I play regularly and don’t snore anymore.

    • Didgeridoo definitely helps some people. The important is keeping it up so problems don’t come back.

    • Jane

      I would LOVE more information on learning to play the didgeridoo.  How do I find an instructor?

  • Julia

    My husband has been diagnosed with sleep apnea 8 months ago. He has used the cpap machine since alhough his sleeping has improved, the mask on the cpap machine has been another challenge. To add more to that problem, the insurance company only allows you to change your mask every 6 months (depending on type of insurance).

    How would a person deal with a malfunctioning mask for 6 months, before he ends up with a new mask. And even a new mask may not work, all thanks to insurance company because they do not let you try it before approving the unit.

    Julia from Pleasanton CA

    • Ja-blesi

      If you return the mask within 30 days most DME’s will alow you to switch out masks. but it must be within 30 days.

    • There are homecare companies out there that understand that some masks just don’t work and have a liberal return policy.

  • Ann Harwood

    Did the women in the study receive any treatment for their sleep apnea during the five year interval?

  • Kathryn

    my mother was dagnosed with sleep apnea about 12 years ago, she was in her late 30s at the time, and has been on a nighttime breathing machine ever since. is this considered an early detection of sleep apnea, and if so, has her being on the sleeping machine reduced her risk of cognitive function loss?

  • stuck

    I’ve been using CPAP for about 8 months.  Sometimes I get a night’s sleep; sometimes not.  I have a lot of discomfort from air being pumped into my stomach (nasal pillows are even worse than the mask in this respect), and the mask tends to leak and wake me up as soon as I lay on my side.  To make matters worse, my wife, who is a light sleeper, can’t stand the sound of the air flowing through the mask, and has taken to wearing ear plugs and sleeping in the other room.  I’m only slightly over weight, but she keeps telling me that if I’d just lose 30 lbs everything would be just fine.  I’m trying to do that, but at my age and the demands of life, progress is slow.  But I have to keep on the machine regardless and create a record of continuous usage (the machine records hours of usage and breathing parameters), or I risk losing my pilots license.  I’m not a good candidate for surgery, so my best hope is to lose a ton of weight and hope that my next sleep study shows enough improvement that the pressure on the CPAP can be turned down.  That would improve things somewhat.  Fun times.

    • Stuck – air in the stomach means you are fighting the machine when it is operating – so instead of going to your lungs it goes there.  There are specially designed pillows for people who use CPAP that makes it easier to side sleep. If you can get a good night’s sleep, eating right and exercising should be easier. The weight will come off.

    • Hooper2

      I am 5′ 11″ and 150 lbs.  I have been told I have mild to moderate sleep apnea and the CPAP isn’t working for me – I wake up in two hours and tear it off.  The answer for me appears to be sleeping on my side and stomach. Cost: free.

  • Gail

    My husband has started having intermittent gasping while awake. This only occurs when he is completely relaxed. While watching tv, listening to the radio or reading a book it seems his throat collapses and there is a sudden gasp. He doesnt feel it coming on in advance and is awake when it happens. He has episodes of sleep apnea but is this common ?.

    • It is, espcially when people are on their back. He may think he is awake, but in fact is experiencing a microsleep.  He should look at his sleep hygiene and make sure he is getting the rest he needs…

      • Mbillinger

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to our comments Ed.

      • Gail

        Thank you so much for your reply!

  • Bart

    There is an outfit in San Francisco called Sereno Sleep Solutions. They advertise quite a bit and claim to have a very simple and unobtrusive solution for snoring and apnea, through “nasal pillows” and some other things that tighten the back of the throat. No insurance coverage, and cost is close to $4,000.

    Anybody hear of them or have a sense about whether this would be a good investment?

  • Kteach

    So many responses here from folks who have problems complying with cpap due to mask issues.  I was a lucky one…took to it like a duck to water.  I can’t sing the praises of the cpap community at for helping me get started and be successful.  Anyone with an OSA diagnosis should visit the forum and read, read, read…. 

    • There are a number good online groups to answer questions about getting the most out of your chosen therapy find them on the ASAA web site at under Online Support Groups. There are in-person groups affiliated with the ASAA under the name A.W.A.K.E – find them on our web site as well – a special shout out to Kim Trotter, RPSGT and the group at UCSF Mt. Zion.

  • Jane

    What about dental devices?  I know 3 people who could not tolerate cPap that are doing great with dental devices.

    • MRD User

      A lot of clinical research has validated the efficacy of these dental devices, called mandibular repositioning devices or MRDs. They hold the jaw forward of its normal position during sleep, thereby holding the associated soft tissue (mainly the base of the tongue) forward and away from the back of the upper airway (the soft palate). This opens the airway to alleviate snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of apnea. MRDs are most effective in patients with mild to moderate OSA, who also happen to be less likely than those with more severe apnea to continue using CPAP because they don’t experience as much improvement in the way they feel. MRDs are not effective at treating a less common form of apnea called central sleep apnea which occurs when the normally “automatic” impulse to breathe becomes impaired during sleep and not by a collapse of the upper airway, as is the case with OSA.

    • Ben

      I use a dental device that works very well for my snoring (I had a sleep study, but the results showed I do not have sleep apnea).  My dentist could make a device, but it was very expensive, so after a little research I found one that is FDA-cleared that you can order on-line, it’s called PureSleep.  I think it’s worth a try, but maybe you should speak with your dentist too.

  • Joyce Sogg

    I don’t know who else to send this  comment to.  I hope Ms. Kohara will get this message.  On the sleep apnea program, Ms. Kohara referred to Clete Kushida as Dr. Kushida, but referred to Dr. Stone as Katie.  Please use all first names or all honorifics, but don’t call the man Dr. and the woman by her first name.  Joyce Sogg

  • mspwong

    Does Clete Kushida have a voice condition?  Can hardly understand what he was saying.

  • Jmsalazarjr

    Heard this during a cab ride home. I have severe OSA. Just got a vpap machine. Would love to discuss my condition with interested researchers. My last sleep study indicated I stop breathing 60 times per hour.

  • dalawen

    I went undiagnosed with SA for years despite my complaints to MD’s re increased fatigue, depression, generalized aches and pains, and decreased mental acuity.  When I was finally diagnosed (>70x/hr} I had already fallen asleep at the wheel, caused a horrendous accident, was cuffed and arrested and held as a DUI etc. etc.  My blood showed zero contaminants.  I am on CPAP now, moderate improvement.  How does one measure the overall improvement other than subjectively, other than the memory card; is there a hope of reversing previous tissue and CNS damage? I am 67

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