Posted on Saturday, April 15th, 2023 at 8:00 am    

Can’t remember where you left your car keys? What about what you had for dinner the other night? Sometimes memory loss starts slowly, a forgetful moment here or there before it progresses into a much more detrimental condition.

Unfortunately, those diagnosed with sleep apnea may be more prone to mild cognitive impairment. Over time, forgetfulness and amnesia can progressively worsen, significantly impacting a person’s quality of life. What’s the connection between memory loss and sleep apnea? Researchers are trying to connect the dots.

Does Sleep Apnea Cause Memory Loss?

Mild cognitive impairment occurs when memory loss may be noticeable to others close to you but doesn’t significantly impact your daily life. Forgetting where you put your phone or missing an appointment because you forgot what time it was are annoyances, but they don’t impact how you live your life.

New studies indicate that sleep apnea may be associated with a decline in cognitive impairment and memory loss in some individuals. One study found that individuals suffering from sleep apnea were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment almost ten years earlier than people without sleep breathing conditions.

Although bouts of forgetfulness are inconvenient and annoying, many people do not consider these problems life-altering. However, mild cognitive impairment can lead to other potential memory problems later. Researchers have found that sleep apnea may be associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep apnea may also be connected to other physical and cognitive conditions like Parkinson’s.

How Does Sleep Apnea Impact Memory?

The specific mechanisms that connect sleep apnea and memory loss are still under investigation. However, it is well understood that sleep plays a vital role in mental health and wellness. During sleep, the brain consolidates memories. There is speculation that those with sleep apnea may be unable to recall certain events or memories because frequent waking during the night doesn’t allow the brain to arrange and consolidate memories. Some researchers find that individuals with untreated obstructive sleep apnea experienced significant impairments in their verbal episodic memory and visuospatial episodic memory.

Sleep apnea often disrupts a person’s regular sleep cycle. Individuals who experience less REM sleep have an increased risk of developing cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dreams typically occur during REM sleep. It is the stage of the sleep cycle where your brain is most active. Constant disruptions to REM sleep, perhaps due to sleep apnea, may impact memory and mood.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Help

Sleep apnea treatments, like a CPAP machine, may also stave off cognitive impairment. Individuals who treated their sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure were typically diagnosed with memory problems ten years later than individuals who left their sleep apnea untreated.

Sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment are the keys to better sleep and overall physical and mental wellness. At Silent Night Therapy, we want to help you achieve your dream of getting a better night’s sleep. Contact our professional sleep apnea specialists today by calling 631-983-2463 to arrange a complimentary sleep consultation.