BACKGROUND--Patients with the sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome often receive continuous positive airway pressure to improve their symptoms and daytime performance, yet objective evidence of the effect of this treatment on cognitive performance is lacking. METHODS--A prospective parallel group study was performed comparing the change in objective daytime sleepiness as assessed by multiple sleep latency, cognitive function, and mood in 21 patients (mean (SE) number of apnoeas and hypopnoeas/hour 57 (6)) who received continuous positive airway pressure for three months and 16 patients (49(6) apnoeas and hypopnoeas/hour) who received conservative treatment for a similar period. RESULTS--Both groups showed significant within group changes in cognitive function between baseline and three months, but when comparisons were made between groups the only significant difference was a greater improvement in multiple sleep latency with continuous positive airway pressure. However, the improvement in sleep latency with continuous positive airway pressure was relatively small (3.5 (0.5) to 5.6 (0.7) min). The group treated with continuous positive airway pressure was divided into those who complied well with treatment (> 4.5 hours/night) and those who did not. Those who complied well (n = 14) showed significant improvement in mean sleep latency and also in depression score compared with the controls but no greater improvement in cognitive function. CONCLUSION--This study confirms significant improvements in objective sleepiness and mood with continuous positive airway pressure, but shows no evidence of major improvements in cognitive function.
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