Researchers have secured funding from the National Health Medical Research Council for a first-ever trial of both screening and intervention for obstructive sleep apnoea in older people at risk for dementia.
Professor Sharon Naismith of the Brain and Mind Centre, Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Science has been awarded $1,468,684.80 for "REducing sleep apnoea for the PrEvention of Dementia (REShAPED): a multi-site feasibility RCT"; one of 13 dementia research projects announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt this month.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common type of sleep apnoea. It is a potentially serious sleep disorder which causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. It is particularly prevalent in older age, affecting up to 75 percent of people aged over 50.
Chief Investigator and clinical neuropsychologist, Professor Naismith will work alongside Professor Ronald Grunstein, Associate Professor Craig Phillips, Dr Camilla Hoyos, Associate Professor Nathaniel Marshall and Dr Loren Mowszowski to investigate the link between sleep apnoea and dementia.
Recent studies have shown obstructive sleep apnoea is associated with a one in four increased risk of dementia (26 percent).
When breathing becomes disrupted during sleep, the oxygen levels of the blood may repeatedly fall.
Oxygen desaturation – reduced oxygen levels – could affect memory and brain function, it has been demonstrated.
The trial led by the University of Sydney will bring together leading experts in the field of dementia prevention, sleep, cognition, epidemiology, clinical trials, neuroimaging, neurovascular function, health economics and implementation science.
The team of researchers – from the Brain and Mind Centre, the Charles Perkins Centre, the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Hospital, San Francisco VA Medical Centre, Macquarie University, Monash University and the University of the Sunshine Coast – will assess 180 adults aged 50 and over who are considered at risk for dementia.
Professor Naismith said the trial would test feasibility for a subsequent full-scale randomised controlled trial, by confirming the prevalence of sleep apnoea in the target population, using intervention to alleviate inadequate oxygen supply, and identifying factors in relation to variation in memory and oxygen desaturation outcomes.
"We hope that widespread screening and treatment for reduced oxygen levels will help prevent dementia in older people who are suffering from previously undiagnosed sleep apnoea," Professor Naismith said.