Objectives: Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a highly prevalent sleep disorder in older persons. It is known to be associated with reductions in cognitive function. As part of a larger study examining SDB in African-Americans and Caucasians, it became possible to examine whether racial background may differentially affect the relationship between SDB and cognitive performance.
Methods: Community-dwelling African-American and Caucasian elderly (ages 65+) at high risk for SDB were tested at two time points. During each visit, subjects were interviewed in their homes about their sleep and medical condition. The Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) was used to assess cognitive function. Objective sleep studies were recorded in the subjects' homes and scored for sleep, apneic events, and oxygen saturation levels.
Results: Increases in respiratory disturbance index (RDI) were associated with decreases in cognitive performance over time, after controlling for gender and education level. There were no differential effects of race on this relationship. There was no relationship between declining cognitive function and hypoxemia.
Conclusions: Analyses of the data confirm that declining cognitive function in older persons with mild to moderate SDB is related to the amount of respiratory disturbances occurring at night, and suggest that the effect of SDB on cognitive decline is unrelated to race and measured hypoxemia. The large number of community-dwelling elderly with mild to moderate SDB may accrue considerable benefits (both cognitively and medically) from the treatment of SDB, even if they are not markedly hypoxemic.