Sleep and Your Memory

Sleep apnea and memory loss

Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 10:19 am

Memory loss is a common symptom of the sleep disorder Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

OSA affects 1.5 million people in the UK and more than 936 million worldwide.

Sleep Apnoea can negatively affect your brain; studies show that CPAP therapy can repair the damage. Many people often do not realise the restorative impact sleep has on the brain.

During deep sleep, our brains sort out all the information (memories) collected throughout the day. It is in this stage of deep sleep that OSA impacts your memory.

This article will discuss the link between Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and memory loss.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?

OSA is a sleep disorder where your airway closes during sleep.

When this happens, you stop breathing; these breathing pauses can occur up to 400 times per night. A person experiencing this will never reach the deep, quality sleep that they need and will wake up exhausted.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea are:

  • Choking in sleep
  • Snoring
  • Poor concentration 
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory loss.

When OSA is left untreated, you risk developing type 2 diabetesheart disease and atrial fibrillation

Can Sleep Apnoea cause affect your memory? Studies show that there is a connection between OSA and Alzheimers.

How Does Sleep Apnoea Cause Memory Problems?

When Sleep Apnoea is untreated, breathing pauses occur, and deep sleep is disturbed or prevented.

When your deep sleep is disrupted, your memory is affected. 

These breathing pauses and reductions in airflow stop oxygen from reaching your brain.

Your brain reacts to the drop in oxygen by momentarily waking you up. Choking during sleep is your brain waking you up.

The lack of oxygen decreases concentration, memory and brain performance. 

Researchers found in 42 studies investigating memory performance and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea: That those with untreated OSA were significantly impaired compared to those with treated OSA.

Due to poor memory and brain fog, many people with untreated OSA suffer from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, 85% of people with OSA are undiagnosed

Does Sleep Apnoea Lead to Dementia and Altziemers? 

Poor sleep from sleep disorders can cause cognitive decline and increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Research shows:

  • People with sleep disorders are 26% more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those without. 
  • Those with sleep disorders are at a 1.55 higher risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. 
  • A study found that those who get less REM sleep are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 
  • It is estimated that around 40% of dementia cases are believed to be attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors, including untreated OSA.

Fortunately, there are treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea that can prevent cognitive decline. 

Sleep Apnoea Treatments

You may wonder how to treat Sleep Apnoea to prevent other conditions.

Here are some lifestyle changes you could make:

Lifestyle changes do not eliminate Sleep Apnoea but can help reduce symptoms.

However, there are treatment options that prevent breathing pauses during your sleep and help your memory:

Please note that treatment for your OSA depends on your severity.

We cannot stress enough how important sleep plays in a person’s fitness and health levels. This is not just limited to physical health – sleep also significantly impacts mental well-being.

Research suggests that the average adult should get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. And if they do so, they can expect a boost in their energy levels and benefits to their heart and weight. They can also expect an enhancement in their memory, mood and mental capability.

According to researchers, people were better at remembering new faces and names; when they got eight hours of quality sleep.

This research further supports the emphasis that should be placed on identifying and treating sleeping disorders, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

Read more on the brain-boosting benefits of sleep.

In-home sleep test
In-home sleep test

Round Up

To get the sleep you deserve and help prevent memory issues, ensure your Sleep Apnoea is treated. Memory loss due to OSA can be prevented through the treatment of CPAP therapy.

Take an in-home sleep test (Sleep Apnoea test) if you recognise any of the above symptoms in yourself.

You will receive your results within 7-10 working days – this is a reliable alternative option to the NHS sleep clinic. Our Sleep Test also includes a follow-up with helpful guidance on your treatment options.

If you need any more advice, please, contact us