Cognitive functions in community-dwelling adults at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea have not been described and nor are associations between cognitive functions and obstructive sleep apnea severity fully understood. The study aimed to describe verbal memory and executive function in community-dwelling adults identified by the Berlin Questionnaire and to investigate associations between these cognitive domains and different obstructive sleep apnea severity indicators.
Among 29,258 age- and gender-stratified persons 30-65 years who received the Berlin Questionnaire by mail, 16,302 (55.7%) responded. From 654 randomly drawn respondents with BQ high risk who were approached for study participation, 290 participants (55.9% males, mean age 48.2 years) were included. Verbal memory was assessed by Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test and executive function by Stroop test. Obstructive sleep apnea severity indicators were assessed by polysomnography.
Mean (standard deviation) verbal learning score was 42.0 (8.9), mean interference time was 31.1 (12.7), median (25th percentile, 75th percentile) apnea-hypopnea index was 7.7 (2.4-22.2), and mean average oxygen saturation was 94.3 (2.0). Verbal learning score was independently associated with average oxygen saturation (ß = 0.721, p = 0.025) in multivariate linear regression models adjusted for putative confounders. Interference time was only related to OSA severity indicators in bivariate analyses.
Verbal memory and executive function impairments were mild in community-dwelling adults at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Average oxygen saturation was the indicator of obstructive sleep apnea severity most strongly associated with cognitive function.