Sleep Apnea Linked to Increased Risk of Late-Onset Epilepsy in Elderly 

United States: Medical frontline reports from the US show that sleep apnea actually gives a predisposition to late-life epilepsy at the elderly population level. 

What is late-life epilepsy? 

According to the US News reports, later-onset epilepsy is known as seizure activities, which appear to start in one’s body after reaching the age of 60. 

Dr. Rebecca Gottesman, the study co-author and chief of the Stroke Branch at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), said that the condition could be linked to underlying diseases related to the heart or brain. 

Gottesman noted, “Compared to other age groups, older adults have the highest incidence of new cases of epilepsy — up to half of which have no clear cause,” as US News reported. 

Sleep Apnea Linked to Increased Risk of Late-Onset Epilepsy in Elderly.
Sleep Apnea Linked to Increased Risk of Late-Onset Epilepsy in Elderly.

According to her, the connection between sleep apnea and poor brain health has long been established. However, the link between apnea and epilepsy is especially still “not well understood.” 

The study was published in the journal Sleep, last year. 

Know more about the study 

The study examined data from over 1,300 participants who took part in a study of sleep-disordered breathing and heart disease

According to NIH, the connection between epilepsy and the breathing disorders of sleep apnea was strong, where “People whose oxygen saturation fell below 80% during sleep, a condition known as nocturnal hypoxia, were three times more likely to develop late-onset epilepsy compared to those who did not have similarly low oxygen levels,” as US News reported. 

Moreover, individuals who develop any form of sleep apnea later in life are more than two times more likely to be diagnosed with late-onset epilepsy compared to those without such histories. 

Dr. Christopher Carosella, the study lead author also noted that the study was not made to answer questions such as ” Could getting sleep apnea under control (with, for example, use of a CPAP machine) help prevent late-onset epilepsy?” However, it is an interesting thought, said Carosella. 

Carosella, who. is an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said, “Discovering a reversible cause for the development of any type of idiopathic epilepsy is an aspirational goal for epilepsy researchers or clinicians,” as US News reported. 

He added, “We hope this study might be a small first step in that direction and also an encouragement to evaluate and treat sleep disorders in patients with epilepsy.”