A common sleep disorder can increase the risk of memory problems by 50 percent, warns new research. PHOTO BY KINGA HOWARD/UNSPLASH 
A common sleep disorder can increase the risk of memory problems by 50 percent, warns new research. PHOTO BY KINGA HOWARD/UNSPLASH 

A common sleep disorder can increase the risk of memory problems by 50 percent, warns new research. PHOTO BY KINGA HOWARD/UNSPLASH 



By Isobel Williams

A common sleep disorder can increase the risk of memory problems by 50 percent, warns new research.

The study shows that people who experience sleep apnea may be more likely to also have memory or thinking problems.

Sleep apnea is when people stop and restart breathing repeatedly during sleep which can lower oxygen levels in the blood.

Symptoms include snorting, gasping and breathing pauses. People with the disorder may also experience morning headaches or have trouble focusing on tasks.

The study shows that people who experience sleep apnea may be more likely to also have memory or thinking problems. PHOTO BY ANDREA PIACQUADIO/PEXELS 

The study involved 4,257 participants who completed a questionnaire asking about sleep quality as well as memory and thinking problems.

For sleep, participants were asked about snorting, gasping or breathing pauses in their sleep.

For memory and thinking, participants were asked questions related to difficulty remembering, periods of confusion, difficulty concentrating or problems with decision-making.

Of all participants, 1,079 reported symptoms of sleep apnea.

Of those with symptoms, 33 percent reported memory or thinking problems compared to 20 percent of people without sleep apnea symptoms.

The study shows that people who experience sleep apnea may be more likely to also have memory or thinking problems. PHOTO BY ANDREA PIACQUADIO/PEXELS 

After adjusting for other factors that could affect memory and thinking problems, such as age, race, gender and education, the researchers found that people who reported sleep apnea symptoms were about 50 percent more likely to also report having memory or thinking problems compared to people who did not.

The researchers hope that their findings will encourage medical professionals to prioritize early diagnosis.

Dr. Dominique Low, of the American Academy of Neurology said: “Sleep apnea is a common disorder that is often underdiagnosed, yet treatments are available.

“Our study found participants who had sleep apnea symptoms had greater odds of having memory or thinking problems. 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.”

The findings are due to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Denver.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker