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Obstructive sleep apnea during rapid eye movement sleep and cognitive performance in adults.

Sleep Medicine 2023 November 12
STUDY OBJECTIVES: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is often characterized with more frequent and lengthy breathing events and greater oxygen desaturation than during other sleep stages. Current evidence suggests an association between OSA and cognitive decline, however whether OSA during REM sleep plays a vital role in this link is understudied.

METHODS: A cross-sectional sample of 728 men and women (aged 59.1 ± 11.3 years) underwent a full night polysomnography for determining apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and sleep stages. Trail Making Test (TMT) part A and B were conducted during the following day for assessing participants' cognitive function. Linear regression analyses were performed to test the possible association between AHI and AHI during REM sleep with TMT-A and B results. Similar analyses were carried out in a subsample involving participants aged ≥60 years with ≥30 min of REM sleep (n = 356).

RESULTS: Despite a slight difference in TMT-B between participants with and without OSA (AHI ≥5 vs AHI <5, β-coefficient: 4.83, 95 % CI: [-9.44, -0.22], P = 0.040), no other association between AHI or REM-AHI and TMT results were found in the full sample. In older participants (aged ≥60 years), a REM-AHI ≥5 events/hour was associated with longer time taken to finish TMT-A (vs REM-AHI <5 events/hour, 3.93, [0.96, 6.90], P = 0.010). There was no association between REM-AHI and time taken to finish TMT-B in older participants.

CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that OSA during REM sleep may be of particular concern for attention-related cognitive function in older adults.

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