Text Size: a  |   a 

Sleep Apnea May Worsen Thinking Problems in MS Patients

June 21, 2016

Researchers have reported a link between sleeping problems and thinking problems in those with multiple sclerosis. Researchers at the University of Michigan thought that some of the thinking and processing difficulties experienced by MS patients could be an effect from sleep problems and not from the autoimmune disease.

The study that was conducted included 38 MS patients who underwent thinking and memory tests that were also assessed for sleep apnea. 33 of them had the sleeping disorder which includes breathing repeatedly stopping and starting during sleep. Anna Kratz, co-first author of the study also said “multiple measures of sleep apnea severity directly correlated with poorer performance on several [thinking] tests.” She explained that particularly attention and memory problems are associated with this.

Although the study failed to prove that sleep apnea caused thinking deficits, 11 percent to 23 percent of variation in the participants’ cognitive test performance was associated with sleep apnea severity.

Other co-first author of the study, Dr. Tiffany Braley said that while current MS treatments have the ability to prevent further neurological damage, they do little to help existing MS symptoms and damage. She added that treating and diagnosing other conditions, such as sleep apnea, could improve thinking abilities in these MS patients. Dr. Neeraj Kaplish, medical director of the Sleep Laboratories at the university encourages patients to discuss sleep concerns with their neurologists.