A new study suggests that snoring may be linked to memory loss and cognitive decline earlier than normal.

Research assistant professor of psychiatry Dr. Ricardo Osorio at the New York University's (NYU) Langone Medical Center, who is also the study author, suggests that irregular breathing pattern while asleep like heavy snoring or sleep apnea are normal in elderly people. Such issues affect around 52 percent men and around 26 percent women.

The latest study involved looking at medical histories of around 2,500 individuals between the age of 55 and 90 years. All the participants were grouped in one of the three categories: free from thinking or memory issues, suffering with early stages of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or suffering with Alzheimer's disease.

The study also analyzed individuals without sleep breathing problems to people with untreated sleep breathing issues. The researchers also examined people with treated sleep breathing issues with the untreated ones.

The study discovered that the participants who suffered from sleep breathing issues were diagnosed for MCI nearly 10 years earlier in comparison to people who did not have any sleep breathing issues.

The researchers also found that people who had sleep breathing issues also developed Alzheimer's disease about five years before in comparison to those who did not have any sleep breathing issues.

Participants who got their sleep breathing issues treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine were diagnosed with MCI around 10 years later when compared to people who did not get the problem treated.

Dr. Osorio also pointed out that the inception of MCI in people who got their breathing issues treated with CPAP was similar to those who did not have any sleep breathing issues.

"Given that so many older adults have sleep breathing problems, these results are exciting-we need to examine whether using CPAP could possibly help prevent or delay memory and thinking problems," says Dr. Osorio.

The researchers suggest that more work is needed as the study does not specify a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the study is still important as it can help scientists to focus on CPAP treatment for patients suffering with thinking or memory decline.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia that affects thousands of elderly people each year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that in 2013 about 5 million Americans were suffering with the disease.

Currently, there are no treatment for Alzheimer's and the disease progresses with age. A treatment that can delay the start of Alzheimer's disease can help save thousands of people from the deliberating disease.

The study has been published in the online journal Neurology. 

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