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Can Sleep Apnea Cause Memory Problems

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Should I Talk To My Doctor About Sleep Apnea

If you have high blood pressure and are concerned about whether you might also have sleep apnea, speak with a doctor. Diagnosis is the first step to accessing effective treatments for OSA that may improve your sleep and blood pressure. Consider whether any of the apply to you:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty with attention and memory
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Dry mouth when waking up
  • Irritability, anxiety, or depression

Sleep apnea is often not recognized by the affected individual. In many cases, a bed partner notices nighttime symptoms of OSA, which prompts a visit to the doctor. If you share a bedroom or home with someone else, ask if they have noticed you exhibiting any of these signs while you are sleeping:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep

Experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have sleep apnea, but it is a good reason to bring up sleep with your doctor.

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How Sleep Apnea Affects Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common health issue in which the amount of force that pumps blood through blood vessels is higher than normal. People with hypertension often don’t have symptoms but learn they have high blood pressure during routine checks at a doctor’s office. If left untreated, high blood pressure puts a daily strain on the cardiovascular system which may lead to stroke, heart disease, and other conditions. Fortunately, managing hypertension with medication and lifestyle changes can reduce your risk for harmful health effects.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes numerous lapses in breathing during sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea . OSA is marked by episodes of airway collapse, which blocks airflow into the lungs and often causes and gasping during sleep. In CSA, breathing lapses occur because of a lack of communication between the brain and the muscles involved in breathing.

It’s important to understand the relationship between hypertension and sleep apnea because these two conditions affect one another, and treatment for sleep apnea can lower blood pressure in people who have both.

Is There A Link Between Sleep Apnea And Dementia

Researchers in Australia recently performed a study on sleep apnea and dementia that involved older adults. These individuals had all recently visited their doctors concerning issues with memory or mood, but did not have a previous sleep apnea diagnosis. During the study, researchers performed tests to assess the participants’ memory skills. Each participant was given an MRI scan that measured different parts of their brains. Then, the participants attended a sleep clinic where they were monitored overnight to look for signs of sleep apnea. The test measured brain activity and measured oxygen levels in the blood throughout the night.

What researchers learned was that the patients who had signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea also had signs that pointed toward dementia. These signs included changes in the brain in areas that affect mood, memory formation, recall, and other areas.

Sleep Apnea Secondary Conditions: How To Service Connect Your Va Sleep Apnea Claim

Veterans, in this post I list more than 40+ possible sleep apnea secondary conditions so veterans can win, service-connect, and rate your sleep apnea VA claim in less time.

Many veterans attempt to service-connect sleep apnea as a primary disability condition and can’t seem to figure our “why” the VA keeps denying your sleep apnea claim.

The main problem is that you didn’t get amedical diagnosis of sleep apnea while on active duty and you never did a sleepstudy.

I can literally read the VA’s denial letter now:“There is no evidence in the veterans service treatment records of any sleepapnea condition or subjective complaints of sleep apnea.”

Of course there isn’t VA!


Because you didn’t go to the doctor enough whileyou were on active duty, and furthermore, you probably didn’t even know whatsleep apnea was during you service.

You’re not alone here veterans!

When I was on active duty, I had a ton of sleep issues, but I never realized those symptoms might have been due to an underlying sleep apnea condition.

I chalked it up to long work hours, stress from the job, a deployment, and various mental health issues.

You might also like the following Sleep Apnea Blog posts:

Thoughts On 5 Ways Sleep Apnea Can Cause Gastrointestinal Problems

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Memory Loss?

  • AdamJune 1, 2016 at 11:27 am

    You forgot Gastroparesis? Gastroenterologists never think to check for OSA for some reason. I asked my friend who is a ped GI about it and he said I wouldn’t understand, mumbling something about ENTs always falsely diagnosing stuff. But most cases of Gastroparesis are actually idiopathic and I wonder whether most of those are actually undiagnosed OSA. It was pretty miserable for me when I had it and CPAP did eventually cure the condition. Which was good because the drugs I was on were pretty nasty in comparison.

  • steersbylitningJune 1, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I have had GERD for years, and IBS, too. Medication took care of the IBS, and pantoprazole the GERD. CPAP/BiPap has not made any difference in this problem so far as I can tell. I have not tried going off medication.

  • June 1, 2016 at 3:20 pm


    Thanks for mentioning gastroparesis. This is something that’s more commonly associated with diabetes, but it can also be placed broadly under the IBS category. Good sleep helps your digestive system in general. Glad to hear that your gastroparesis got better on CPAP.

  • are you familiar with the “Nightlase” protocol .Non-surgical laser therapy to reduce upper airway collapse, convert and stimulate new collagen formation to restore tone to lax tissues.

  • zing

    Dr.Steven Park: Can you tell us what kind of surgery Lorraine has done? Is it especially suitable for someone who is thin and has gastrointestinal conditions ?

  • Philippa Swart
  • The Effect Of Sleep Apnea On Brain Health

    It is widely known these days that obstructive sleep apnea can present a wide range of dangerous complications for someone’s health. Now, there is also mounting research that the condition has negative impacts on brain structure and function.

    Obstructive sleep apnea has been connected to varying medical problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and type II diabetes. It has also been shown to put people at greater risk for heart attacks and stroke. But how does sleep apnea affect the brain?

    There is evidence that sleep apnea causes difficulty with cognitive functions, like memory, reasoning, reacting and controlling emotions. Recent research has also shown that it may actually change the shape of the brain. The good news is that the negative health effects of sleep apnea can be reversed with treatment.

    Snoring: Sleep Apnea Warning Sign

    Since sleep apnea occurs while you are sleeping, it is common to not realize that you have the condition. The most common warning sign of sleep apnea is snoring. In fact, snoring can be a serious sign of severe sleep apnea, particularly when it results in waking up, choking, or gasping. If you have a history of snoring or feel tired or unrefreshed after sleep, you could be suffering from sleep apnea and there is the possibility that you could have some brain damage. It is important to see a physician if you have any of these symptoms.

    The Risks Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

    One of Shakespeare’s characters called sleep the “chief nourisher in life’s feast.” He was right! During sleep, the body actively repairs and restores itself. Lack of oxygen during sleep interferes with memory formation, blood pressure regulation, and weight control.

    Untreated apnea is associated with increased risk for dementia, stroke or heart attack. In one study, persons with sleep apnea had a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack or death than those without apnea.

    Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

    • FatigueWhen breathing stops during sleep, thebrain is left without oxygen, and starts sending an SOS wakeup signal. Waking up for a few seconds?—?even without recognizing or remembering?—?disturbs the sleep cycle and will likely cause next day exhaustion. This can make it easy to fall asleep anytime, anywhere.

    • Memory problemsSleep apnea can cause memory and concentration difficulties as it interrupts deep sleep. Deep sleep aids in memory function.

    • Loud snoringAlthough not everyone that snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Sleep apnea can make sleep quite light, which can make it easier to be woken up by a full bladder.

    • Waking up with a headacheLack of oxygen can cause morning headaches, they usually resolve within a few hours after waking up.

    • Waking up with a dry throat and mouthSnoring and breathing mainly through the mouth, can inhibit the production of saliva by the salivary glands.

    Parkinsons Disease Linked To Sleep Disorders Sleep Disturbances

    Parkinson’s disease has been linked to sleep disorders and sleep disturbances. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the loss of brain cells that control movement. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include tremors, stiffness, slowness of movements, as well as balance and coordination problems. Memory problems, depression, and sleep problems can all occur in Parkinson’s disease, too.

    Sleep problems and sleep disorders may occur as an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, even before motor symptoms have started. Common sleep disorders experienced in Parkinson’s disease include insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, nightmares, sleep attacks, REM sleep behavior disorder , periodic leg movement disorder, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and nocturia, which is frequent nighttime urination.

    The Surprising Connection Between Sleep Apnea And Memory Loss

    According to a study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2017, people with severe, untreated sleep apnea had significant damage in multiple areas of the brain.

    In an analysis of 42 studies comparing 2294 adults with untreated OSA and 1364 adults who were healthy,¹ the authors found people with sleep apnea experienced problems with:

    • Immediate recall
    • Delayed recall
    • Learning
    • Recognition

    Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea

    Older age, with its loss of muscle tone, is an important risk factor for sleep apnea. Men have sleep apnea more often than women, although women can also be affected. Obesity, smoking, excessive use of sedatives or alcohol, or a positive family history of sleep apnea are additional risk factors. Also, more than half of people with Down syndrome have sleep-related breathing problems.

    Obesity And Insulin Resistance


    OSA, hypertension, obesity, and insulin resistance share a complex relationship in which all four factors influence and exacerbate one another. predisposes people to OSA. Obesity also increases a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure. Research suggests that when a person has both OSA and excess weight, the two conditions may affect one another in ways that impair cardiovascular health. For example, OSA and obesity both cause elevated levels of leptin in the blood. Leptin is a hormone that promotes hunger, which can further contribute to weight gain. Leptin also stresses the cardiovascular system and may promote the development of hypertension.

    People with insulin resistance require higher and higher levels of the hormone insulin to be able to use a type of sugar in the blood called glucose for energy. Over time, insulin resistance can result in uncontrolled glucose levels in the blood and the development of diabetes. Obesity is a known cause of insulin resistance. Recent studies have shown that OSA is also a cause of insulin resistance, regardless of one’s weight. High blood pressure is yet another risk factor for insulin resistance. Because insulin resistance is an activator of the sympathetic nervous system, it may cause or worsen high blood pressure as well.

    How Does Sleep Apnea Cause High Blood Pressure

    Related Reading

    Sleep deprivation strains the heartsympathetic nervous system“fight or flight” response

    Each time a person with OSA experiences airway collapse and briefly stops breathing during sleep, their sympathetic nervous system becomes activated and blood pressure rapidly spikes when they resume breathing. Sometimes, this sequence of pausing and resuming breathing can cause a person to wake from sleep. When a person wakes up after an OSA event, activation of the sympathetic nervous system and blood pressure levels escalate to an even greater degree.

    Additionally, when sleep is disrupted by OSA symptoms, the body releases sympathetic nervous system hormones called into the blood. Catecholamines are stress hormones that are majorly released by the adrenal glands. Examples of catecholamines include dopamine and epinephrine . High levels of catecholamines in the blood cause high blood pressure.

    Sleep Apnoea ‘linked To Memory Loss’

    People who have difficulty breathing while asleep are more likely to develop memory problems early on, a study in the journal Neurology suggests.

    US scientists checked medical databases involving 2,400 people aged over 55.

    Those who said they suffered from sleep apnoea reported problems with their memory and thinking skills a decade earlier than people who slept well.

    Further work is under way to clarify the link. It adds to growing evidence poor sleep is associated with illness.

    Treating Sleep Apnea Reverses Brain Damage

    Obstructive sleep apnea can be destructive to your brain. But new research shows that CPAP therapy repairs the damage.

    What is obstructive sleep apnea? 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.

    The new study involved 17 men with severe, untreated sleep apnea. Brain scans showed that they had a significant reduction in white matter – “the subway of the brain.” The men with severe sleep apnea also showed signs of impaired thinking, mood and alertness.

    Each member of the study group was treated with CPAP therapy for 12 months. CPAP provides gently pressurized air through a mask that you wear during sleep. The airflow keeps your airway open and makes it easier to breathe.

    Results show that one year of CPAP therapy led to an almost complete reversal of white matter damage. Treatment also improved cognitive scores, mood, alertness and quality of life.

    In a previous study the authors found that severe sleep apnea also causes damage to gray matter in the brain. Three months of CPAP therapy helped repair this damage too.

    Sleep apnea is common in people who are obese. It also occurs frequently in people who have high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes.

    Does Sleep Apnea Cause Memory Loss

    Sleep issues

    Sleep plays a significant role in your memory, and not getting enough can damage it. Your body needs to repair itself on a daily basis, which happens during sleep. When you have sleep apnea you temporarily stop breathing at night, and when your body senses this, it sends a “WAKE UP!” signal to your brain.

    During sleep your actual physical body is at rest, but there are a lot of critical tasks going on behind the scenes. Not only is your body repairing itself, but it is also taking time to help you download and absorb what happened during the day – making memories.

    Some memories can be absorbed during rapid eye movement sleep, which is the stage where you dream. Most of the serious repair and downloading takes place during the deeper stages of sleep. If you keep waking up all night, which can happen as many as hundreds of times a night if you suffer from severe sleep apnea, you will not fall into the deep sleep stages. Your body will not get the support it needs to help you store all of the many memories you made throughout the day. Never underestimate the power that sleep can have on your physical and mental health.

    This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

    How Are Memory And Sleep Connected

    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.

    Related Reading

    65 years or older7-8 hours

    Some studies have found sleep quality decreases with age. This is tied to slow-wave sleep. Slow waves are produced in an area of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex. The medial prefrontal cortex will deteriorate over time, and as a result, older people typically experience less slow-wave sleep during a normal sleep cycle and have a harder time processing memories.

    How Brain Damage Caused By Sleep Apnea Can Be Reversed

    There is good news from all this research as well. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the negative effect that OSA may have on the brain can actually be stopped and reversed. With proper treatment, the brain has proved to be quite resilient. CPAP therapy has been shown to effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea. And, over the course of one year, CPAP therapy helped to reverse visible damage to the brain and significantly improve nearly all the symptoms related to cognitive ability and mood.

    Treatment For Sleep Apnea

    Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea can be more straightforward than treatment of apnea that is central or mixed . Simple steps such as limiting alcohol, smoking, sedatives and muscle relaxants; losing weight; sleeping on one’s side or elevating the head of the bed can help. Physical training has been shown to reduce sleep apnea even in the absence of weight loss.

    Is There A Link Between Early Onset Dementia And Sleep Apnea

    Pin on Medical Treatment For Snoring

      If you suffer from sleep apnea, you are most likely familiar with the brain fog, excessive daytime sleepiness, and other mental and cognitive symptoms that come with this sleeping disorder.

      However, new research is indicating that chronic sleep apnea may cause ongoing issues, as well. A recent study showed evidence of a link between sleep apnea and early-onset dementia.

      People with Obstructive Sleep Apnea showed brain changes that were similar to those of people suffering from the early stages of dementia. While a causal link has not been established, the connection between sleep apnea and dementia is becoming better understood. Over time, research in this area may help people reduce their risk of dementia.

      Risk Of Publication Bias

      Funnel plots were constructed for each domain to investigate the presence of publication bias. On visual inspection, the funnel plots appeared symmetrical, suggesting no bias was present. Publication bias was further investigated using statistical analysis. Egger’s test for asymmetry was significant only for verbal recognition . However, Rosenthal’s Fail-safe N revealed 114 studies with null results would be required to generate a nonsignificant overall effect in this domain. This indicates it is unlikely that the true difference between individuals with OSA and healthy controls on verbal recognition tasks is zero. Further, Duval and Tweedie’s Trim and Fill procedure was used to determine the best estimate of an unbiased overall effect size. However, the overall effect size was unchanged, suggesting the original effect size was unbiased.

      Inspection of the norm-referenced funnel plot suggested there was no publication bias present in the domains. Further inspection of the domains showed Egger’s test was significant for visuo-spatial delayed recall . As this domain did not yield a significant effect size, the Fail-safe N was not applicable. The Trim and Fill method identified the best effect size as very similar to the original, suggesting the original effect size was unbiased.

      Waking Up To Use Bathroom In The Night

      One of the symptoms of sleep apnea that comes as a surprise to many people is nocturia, or frequently needing to urinate during the nighttime.

      Usually, people associate this with bladder or prostate problems or have the belief that it is a natural part of aging. However, sleep apnea can cause the urge to void during the night as well.

      As recent research shows, a type of hormone that causes increased urination is released when your body has to keep preventing you from stopping breathing during the night. This often happens in people with sleep apnea.

      If your physician is concerned about your urinary frequency during sleeping hours, it is worth bringing up the potential for a sleep apnea diagnosis to him or her.

      Signs And Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

      Family members or bed partners often pick up on the signs of sleep apnea first. Many people with sleep apnea don’t know they’re snoring and gasping for breath at night. If you have any of the following signs, see your doctor:

      • daytime sleepiness
      • loud snoring followed by silent pauses
      • gasping or choking during sleep
      • morning headache
      • poor concentration or memory loss
      • lowered sex drive

      Snoring by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. It is true that loud snoring is common in people with this disorder, but there’s a big difference between simple snoring and sleep apnea.

      Untreated sleep apnea can cause serious health problems. If it’s not treated, sleep apnea can lead to:

      • high blood pressure
      • work-related injuries

      The Effect Of Osa On Visuo

      Visuo-spatial memory tasks require participants to recall an image, for example, by drawing it later or recalling the specific location of the image on a grid. The control-referenced dataset provided evidence that there was significant impairment in the ability of individuals with OSA to recall visuo-spatial information immediately and following a delay. Similar to the verbal domain, the effect sizes for visuo-spatial memory were comparable for the immediate-recall and delayed-recall domains. This suggests individuals with OSA have an encoding deficit that affects recall of both visuo-spatial and verbal information.

      This finding was not supported by the visuo-spatial learning result for the control-referenced dataset; however, the analysis for visuo-spatial learning was based on only two studies with contrasting results, suggesting more research is required in this domain. The same OSA samples from the control-referenced dataset showed reduced or no impairment when compared to normative data.

      Taken together, the visual and visuo-spatial memory analyses reveal evidence of intact immediate visual recall but impaired immediate and delayed visuo-spatial recall in OSA compared with controls. However, more evidence relating to visual memory deficits in OSA is needed before the second question can be adequately addressed.

      Sleep Apnea May Damage Brain Cells Associated With Memory

      June 11, 2008 — People with obstructive sleep apnea , a common sleep disorder linked to heavy snoring, may lose tissue in brain regions that store short-term memories—the type used to recall a recent joke or recognize a person you met at a party—say researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles.

      Daytime confusion and memory loss are known symptoms of sleep apnea; people with the condition often rouse hundreds of times a night and are tired and forgetful the next day. But a in the June 27, 2008, edition of the journal NeuroscienceLetters suggests that there may be more to it than just that.

      Why sleep apnea may affect memoryMemories are formed in the mammillary bodies, structures on the underside of the brain that resemble small breasts. When UCLA neuroscientists scanned the brains of 43 sleep apnea patients and 66 healthy volunteers using magnetic resonance imaging , they discovered that the sleep apnea patients’ mammillary bodies were nearly 20% smaller than those of the untroubled sleepers.

      “People always thought the memory deficit was just because their sleep was disturbed and they felt terrible,” says study coauthor Ronald Harper, PhD, distinguished professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “But it looks to be that the brain is actually injured, and the particular brain structure that’s damaged is one of several that transfer recent memories into long-term memories.”

      Interrupted Sleep Can Lead To An Underactive Thyroid

      Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder, where breathing stops during sleep for a period of 10 seconds or longer for a few times a night. Some symptoms of sleep apnea are similar to Hashimoto’s symptoms.

      Breathing is automatically regulated during sleep, maintaining the healthy balance between oxygen and CO2. If the breathing is interrupted, oxygen levels drop?—?causing a lot of problems with brain capacity, hormonal balances, and healthy blood pressure .

      Sleep apnea can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how many episodes of interrupted sleep a person experiences .

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