According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Can sleep apnea cause memory loss? Yes! For people with sleep apnea, brain fog and memory loss are just two of the most significant and noticeable side effects. Memory loss and brain fog occur due to the nightly breathing disruptions that reduce the amount of oxygen getting to the brain during sleep. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to brain damage, early cognitive decline, and a wide range of serious long-term health conditions.
“OSA is a chronic disease that involves repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. These breathing pauses can prevent your body from supplying enough oxygen to the brain. In severe cases, this lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage. Signs of this damage include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness.” - SleepEducation.org
Signs of memory loss due to sleep apnea are brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness. Other cognitive effects include trouble learning and focusing, impaired decision-making skills, and poor emotional and behavioral control. Here’s what you need to know.
Sleep and memory share a complex relationship. Getting enough rest helps you process new information once you wake up, and sleeping after learning can consolidate this information into memories, allowing you to store them in your brain.
How Memory Loss Due to Sleep Apnea Happens
Getting the right amount of sleep each night is not only beneficial for the body but also for the brain. Sleep is the body’s natural way to prepare the brain and body to function the following day. While there are many positive effects of sleep, the primary purposes are to retain short and long-term memories, grow muscle, repair tissues, and synthesize hormones.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “not sleeping or getting enough sleep can lower your learning abilities by as much as 40 percent.”
Of course, feeling foggy after a poor night’s sleep or too little sleep is not uncommon, and we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. But for people with sleep apnea, memory loss and brain fog can become regular and much more severe problems. Research studies have shown a significant link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s, with cognitive decline setting in an average of 10 years earlier in people with sleep apnea compared to people who sleep normally.
Why Sleep Is Important to Combat Sleep Apnea & Memory Loss
- Promotes heart health
- Reduces stress
- Improves overall memory
- Increased alertness
- Improves concentration and productivity
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps the body repair itself
- May reduce the risk of depression
Side Effects of Sleep Apnea & Memory Loss
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty learning and understanding new concepts
- Weakened immunity
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
Research studies show that brain damage and memory loss due to sleep apnea is largely reversible with consistent CPAP treatment. If you or your partner snore loudly or experience other symptoms of sleep apnea like memory loss or brain fog, don’t wait. Talk to a sleep specialist about a sleep study. If you or your partner is diagnosed with sleep apnea, it’s essential to get treatment. Schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist today!