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Sleep Apnea may raise risk of memory and cognition problems: Study

Study reveals sleep apnea's link to memory and cognition issues, emphasising the importance of diagnosis and treatment for this underrecognized disorder.

Written By: Muskan Gupta New Delhi Published on: March 05, 2024 11:20 IST
Sleep Apnea
Image Source : GOOGLE Study finds that Sleep Apnea may raise the risk of memory

A recent study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 76th Annual Meeting has shed light on the connection between sleep apnea and memory or thinking problems. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. While the study shows an association between the disorder and cognitive decline, it does not claim causation.

During episodes of sleep apnea, individuals experience interruptions in breathing, often accompanied by snorting and gasping sounds. These interruptions lead to decreased levels of oxygen in the blood, which can potentially have fatal consequences if left untreated.

“Sleep apnea is a common disorder that is often underdiagnosed, yet treatments are available,” said Dominique Low, of Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts, US. “Our study found participants who had sleep apnea symptoms had greater odds of having memory or thinking problems,” he added.

The preliminary study, conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts, involved 4,257 participants who completed a questionnaire assessing sleep quality, memory, and cognitive issues. Of those surveyed, 1,079 reported symptoms of sleep apnea, such as snorting, gasping, or breathing pauses during sleep.

The findings revealed that individuals with sleep apnea symptoms were more likely to experience morning headaches and difficulty concentrating on tasks. Furthermore, 33 percent of those with sleep apnea symptoms reported memory or thinking problems, compared to 20 percent of those without such symptoms.

Lead researcher Dominique Low emphasised the importance of early screening for sleep apnea, as timely diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve quality of life. “These findings highlight the importance of early screening for sleep apnea. “Effective treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are readily available. Quality sleep, along with eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, social engagement, and cognitive stimulation, may ultimately reduce a person’s risk of thinking and memory problems, improving their quality of life," said Low.

While the study has provided valuable insights, the researchers acknowledged its limitations, including the reliance on self-reported symptoms rather than medical assessments. Nevertheless, the findings underscore the significance of addressing sleep apnea as a potential contributor to memory and cognition issues.

Prioritising quality sleep, along with adopting a healthy lifestyle encompassing a balanced diet, regular exercise, social engagement, and cognitive stimulation, may help reduce the risk of memory and thinking problems associated with sleep apnea, ultimately enhancing overall well-being.

(with IANS inputs)

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