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Older Women With Sleep-Breathing Problems More Likely To See Decline in Daily Functions, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 13, 2014 11:13 AM EST

Older women with disordered breathing during sleep were found to be at a greater risk of decline in the ability to perform daily activities, a new study has reported. 

The study noted that older adults were as much as four times as likely as middle-aged individuals to have problems with breathing during sleep. 

Sleep disordered breathing involves repeated interruptions or decrease in breathing during sleep. This leads to fragmented sleep and hypoxemia or low blood oxygen levels. 

"Because sleep-disordered breathing can be treated effectively, it is possible that treatment could help prevent decline in important areas of functioning that allow older adults to remain independent," said Adam Spira, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the study's lead author, in the press release. "As is often the case, more research is needed to investigate this possibility."

As the study was observational, researchers can't yet conclusively state that sleep-disordered breathing caused the functional decline, but they do point a strong link. 

The researchers say they believe it is the low blood-oxygen levels caused by sleep-disordered breathing that cause the trouble with daily tasks, and not sleep fragmentation, which is also increased by sleep-disordered breathing, according to the press release.

The study has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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