Sleep Apnea May Be Linked to Memory and Thinking Problems

UPI Health News reports that research study results to be presented at the 76th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Denver in the spring of 2024 suggest that sufferers of sleep apnea may be more likely to experience memory or thinking problems, though the disorder does not necessarily

cause cognitive decline. Sleep apnea is a common condition that causes repeated breathing interruptions during sleep, potentially lowering blood oxygen levels. Symptoms include snorting, gasping, and breathing pauses. The study included a little over 4,000 individuals from age 20 to older than 80. They replied to a questionnaire inquiring about sleep quality, as well as memory and thinking problems. A total of 1,079 participants reported symptoms of sleep apnea. The survey revealed that people who reported sleep apnea symptoms were about 50% more likely to also report experiencing memory or thinking problems compared to people without these symptoms. Dr. Dominique Low, the study’s author and a neuromuscular fellow in the department of neurology at Boston Medical Center, wrote in an abstract that “Given the prevalent underdiagnosis and undertreatment of sleep apnea, proactive measures in screening and managing sleep apnea are needed.” Dr. Sudha Tallavajhula, medical director of a Neurological Sleep Medicine Center in Houston who was not involved in the study, was quoted as saying, “Sleep apnea is associated with a high risk of developing cognitive impairment. Previous studies have suggested that the brain develops cumulative neuronal damage over years of suffering from this disorder.” So treating sleep apnea is vital because it is “a potentially reversible factor underlying cognitive decline.” Other experts say people with sleep apnea symptoms should ask their doctor if it’s worth having a sleep study.

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