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Does sleep apnea cause memory loss?

This question was asked in Spur, Texas on 02/22/2012.
I have a lot of memory loss all the time. I have a hard time sleeping with my oxygen at night.

Doctors Answers (2)

Farhad Sigari, MD, FACS
Answered on: 2/24/2012

Definitely! People who suffer from Sleep Apnea are at high risk of developing memory loss. As they get older, they even have a high risk of developing dementia. This was highlighted in a clinical study done and reported earlier this year by researchers at UCSF. Those with sleep apnea are twice as likely to develop memory problems. If one is having problems with their current sleep apnea therapy, they should be seen. I can usually can find a suitable solution for my patients depending on the individual.

Yes, sleep apnea can lead to disturbances in memory and concentration, especially in the short term. It can also compromise your ability to pay attention. Adequate sleep is necessary for learning and memory, specifically, deep sleep or slow wave sleep and REM (dreaming stage) sleep. If sleep is repeatedly disrupted or poor sleep architecture is present due to sleep apnea not allowing sleep to progress to the deeper stage of sleep then these brain functions can be compromised. If you are having trouble with memory then a poor quality of sleep could definitely be part of the problem. Regardless, you should see your doctor to help evaluate possible other causes of poor memory as well.