Sleep Apnea and Daily Living Capabilities

Sleep quality can influence many things. We have formerly discussed that sleep and sleep apnea can affect measurable bodily functions like blood pressure and weight, but how might it affect day-to-day life? Could routine daily activities, which we usually take for granted, be affected by poor quality sleep? Routine activities, such as cleaning oneself, are considered Instrumental Activity of Daily Living (IADL). Other examples of IADLs include feeding oneself, selecting clothing, grooming, and maintaining continence. At this time, you might be thinking: “Surely I would never be so tired that I wouldn’t be able to do these things.” Sleepiness may not be the issue, however, as, chronic short sleep over a long time period can contribute to a decline in brain functioning. If brain deficits become severe enough, shortened sleep may eventually affect one’s ability to perform IADLs properly. Recently, a group of investigators set out to further investigate this situation.

Using a large sample of participants (300 women), the research team investigated whether sleep variables over time predict how well people are able to perform IADLs. Each participant underwent an overnight sleep study that quantified sleep time and also sleep apnea variables (like the apnea-hypopnea index or AHI). Questionnaires assessed each participant’s IADLs and also cognitive abilities at a baseline time point and again 5 years later. The change in IADL functioning was calculated and related to the sleep and sleep apnea measurements.

Results showed that women with an AHI over 15 (more than 15 apneas or hypopneas per hour) were twice as likely to have a decline in IADL functioning than those with an AHI below 5. Importantly, oxygen in the blood is lowered by apneas and hypopneas, and a measurement of blood oxygen levels showed that those with a greater oxygen decrease during the night were at an even greater risk decline in IADL functioning.

These results highlight an important fact – sleep apnea can not only affect your day-to-day quality of life (sleepiness/happiness), but it can also affect your daily functioning. The participant’s in this study who had more severe sleep apnea showed a decline in daily functioning when those without sleep apnea did not. If you have sleep apnea, hope is not lost! There are many treatment options that can alleviate apnea severity and restore sleep to normal, healthy levels. If you or someone you know is suffering from sleep apnea, get treated and stay treated!



Spira, A., Covinsky, K., Rebok, G., Punjabi, N., Redline, S., Stone, K. L., & Yaffe, K. (2013, November). Sleep-disordered breathing and functional decline in older women. In gerontologist (vol. 53, pp. 488-488). Journals dept, 2001 Evans Rd, Cary, NC 27513 USA: Oxford Univ Press Inc.

Janna Mantua


Janna is a PhD Student / Graduate Research Assistant at University of Massachusetts Amherst with a background in clinical sleep research and psychology. Janna Mantua is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience department at the University of Massachusetts. Her research focuses on sleep and aging, with specific projects on cognitive health, inflammation, memory formation, and neuroimaging. Prior to her PhD work, Janna was involved in research on sleep apnea and cognitive decline at the NYU Sleep Disorders Center.

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