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Sleep Apnea May Affect Your Memories, New Research Says

Sleep disorders are very common among people in the US. Over 18 million adults in the US are victims of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In fact, obstructive sleep apnea is the most prominent of all the sleep disorder that Americans suffer.

The latest research now points out that this condition may impact the development of an individual’s personal memories. This is possible owing to the fragmented sleep and the subsequent disturbed oxygen supply that people with obstructive sleep apnea suffer from.

OSA And Its Association With Depression

Obstructive sleep apnea combines poor sleep and oxygen deprivation. OSA attempts to briefly interfere with a person’s breathing.

A lack of oxygen and poor sleep paired together can increase the risk of mood disorders, memory problems, and cardiovascular health concerns. The latest research sees a possible link between OSA and depression.

Past research has noted that the rate of depression tends to be higher among individuals with OSA. However, the linking mechanism between the two are unclear. This study, however, investigates the association and has learned of a possible connection between autobiographical memories.

Autographical Memory And Sleep Apnea

Autographical memory relates with a person’s ability to memories particular episodes of his life and retain the information about his personal life. Previous studies have shown that there is an association between autographical memories and depression.

In this regard, a senior research fellow at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Melbourne, Australia and the study’s head, Melinda Jackson noted, “Sleep apnea is also a significant risk factor for depression, so if we can better understand the neurobiological mechanisms at work, we have a chance to improve the mental health of millions of people.”

For the purpose of this study, Dr. Jackson and colleagues investigated 44 adults with OSA but they were not actively treating it and 44 healthy adults without OSA. The participants’ ability to remember different kinds of memories from recent event, childhood, and early adult lives was also taken into account.

The investigation showed that folks with OSA had considerably more “overgeneral memories” than others without OSA. Overgeneral memories are referred to as memories that people cannot recall in much detail.

In the study, more than 52% of the participants with OSA had overgeneral memories. On the other hand, less than 19% of the people without OSA had overgeneral memories. In addition to overgeneral memories, the researchers compared the participants’ semantic memory with episodic memory.

Semantic memory gives details of the facts and information about someone’s personal history. Moreover, episodic memory relates with the ability to remember broader events or episodes.

The investigators learned that the episodic memory of people with OSA was intact. However, their semantic memory was impaired. They also showed a correlation between a higher number of autobiographical memories and worse semantic memory across both groups.

Wrap up

This study indicates that sleep apnea impairs the brain’s capacity to consolidate or encode some types of memories. As a result, sleep apnea affects memory, which also links to depression.