Sleep apnea symptoms linked to memory problems, thinking problems: Study

People with sleep apnea may be more likely to have memory or thinking problems, according to a preliminary study to be presented at the 76th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in April this year. The presentation will be given in person and online in Denver April 13-18, 2024. The study found a favorable association but did not determine whether sleep apnea causes cognitive decline.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when people repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep, which can lead to low oxygen levels in the blood. Symptoms include snoring, gasping and respiratory arrest. People suffering from this disorder may also experience headaches in the morning or have trouble concentrating on tasks. “Sleep apnea is a common disorder that is often underdiagnosed, yet there are treatments available,” said study author Dominic Lo, MD, MPH, of Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our study found that participants who had symptoms of sleep apnea were more likely to have problems with memory or thinking.”

Sleep Apnea: Study and Its Findings

The study included 4,257 people. Participants completed a questionnaire asking about sleep quality as well as memory and thinking problems. For sleep, participants were asked about snoring, gasping, or breathing pauses during their sleep. For memory and thinking, participants were asked questions related to difficulty remembering, periods of confusion, difficulty concentrating, or problems making decisions.

Of all participants, 1,079 reported symptoms of sleep apnea. Of those with symptoms, 357 people, or 33 percent, reported memory or thinking problems, while 628 people, or 20 percent, did not have symptoms of sleep apnea. After adjusting for other factors that may influence memory and thinking problems, such as age, race, gender and education, researchers found that people who reported symptoms of sleep apnea had less memory or thinking problems than people who did not. were almost 50 percent more likely to report. In which there were no symptoms of sleep apnea.

“These findings highlight the importance of early screening for sleep apnea,” Lo said. “Effective treatments such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are readily available. Quality sleep along with a healthy diet, regular exercise, social engagement and cognitive stimulation can ultimately reduce a person’s risk of thinking and memory problems, Which can improve their quality of life.”
Limitations of the study include that the data was obtained from a survey and that participants reported their symptoms rather than being evaluated by medical professionals. Additional studies are needed to follow people’s sleep apnea, memory, and thinking symptoms over time.

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