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Feeling Forgetful? It Might Be Sleep Apnea

It’s easy to spot the more common symptoms and side effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea can cause you to produce a loud and roaring snore. And it can make you tired and moody throughout the day. Maybe worst of all, it can also cause searing morning headaches lasting well after you first wake up.

But one more, subtle sign of obstructive sleep apnea isn’t a physical symptom – it’s a change in our cognitive function.

It makes sense that obstructive sleep apnea would affect our ability to think, too. After all, your brain is effectively sleep deprived for weeks or months at a time. So it can be hard to function at your best without the sleep you need.

And when it comes to sleep apnea and memory retention, the problem may be deeper – and more significant – than you realize.


How It Works

It may seem like our brains and bodies are simply “shut down” for the night when our eyes are closed. But there’s actually a lot going on just beneath the surface.

In fact, sleep is when the brain quietly filters through all our memories and data retained during the day. This determines what our memory should keep, and what it can throw away. In a sense, it’s like a daily cleaning operation. Our brains are filtering through any new info and determining what is important, all while we rest.

But when obstructive sleep apnea is involved, the brain can’t complete these required tasks. This is because it is busy paying attention to periods of apnea, and essentially keeping us alive in the night.

When we pause our breath during obstructive sleep apnea, the brain needs to focus on resetting our breathing – an action that takes place multiple times during our rest.


The Short Term and Long Term Problems

A number of recent studies have taken a close look at obstructive sleep apnea and memories, and the results were alarming for both the short and the long term.

Recent research has found that the majority of people who have untreated obstructive sleep apnea had an earlier onset of mild cognitive impairment. They also had a much higher risk of developing cognitive diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, later on in life.


What You Can Do

The best thing you can do if you think that you have obstructive sleep apnea is to get tested and treated immediately. These negative effects on your memory can be reversed with time once you start sleeping well again.

In the meantime, if you are concerned that there’s a problem with your sleep, your memory, or both, be on the lookout. Here are some subtle signs that obstructive sleep apnea may be interfering with your nightly rest:

  •  Can’t remember details from yesterday, or earlier in the week.
  • Feel scatterbrained, and are prone to losing keys, paperwork, or other common and familiar items around the house.
  • Suddenly have trouble remembering names, dates, or other previously stored and readily accessible memories.
  • Have trouble focusing, and forget something soon after you hear, read, or see it.


So watch for the smaller signs. Because by getting treatment as soon as there’s an inkling of a problem with your sleep, you can keep your memory fresh and working well in the years to come.

Think you might be suffering from sleep apnea? Contact us here right away.


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Feeling Forgetful? It Might Be Sleep Apnea
Feeling scatterbrained, forgetful and unfocused? Sleep apnea may be to blame. Here’s a closer look at how obstructive sleep apnea affects the memory, and what you can do.

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