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Severe Sleep Apnea Has Silver Lining
Date:2/16/2010

Those with the worst cases report the fewest nightmares, study finds

TUESDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The breathing woes that accompany severe sleep apnea may be counterbalanced by this silver lining: those with the condition report fewer nightmares.

"We found that people with significant sleep apnea have much fewer nightmares. They continue to dream, but they report fewer nightmares," said Dr. Jim Pagel, lead author of a study appearing in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. "It's been a question for a long time about the cognitive effects of sleep apnea. . . This is one of the first studies showing a clear cognitive change with sleep apnea and, surprisingly, it's in a positive direction."

Pagel, who is director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado in Pueblo, added that he hopes the finding will spur more research into this aspect of sleep apnea.

"This makes sleep apnea a little sexier. The thought with apnea is it's heavy-set, snoring males and does horrible things to how long you live and whether you have heart attacks and stroke. It's not very interesting to people," he said. "I think this tie-in to dreams and nightmares makes it a little more interesting."

"This gives us more insight and questions to ask patients," said Dr. Carl Boethel, an assistant professor of internal medicine with the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and director of the Sleep Institute, Scott & White, in Temple. "If I ask a patient about dream recall and nightmares, they may have more severe sleep apnea."

But this seemingly positive finding is not necessarily so, said another expert.

"It's not a good thing," said Shelby Freedman Harris, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

The findings could indicate a glitch in patients' cognitive processing. "There may be something m
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