Sleep Apnea May Affect Memory

20/11/2014

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts continually. If you tend to snore loudly and wake up feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep, then you might be suffering from sleep apnea without knowing. Mainly, there are two types of this syndrome:

Obstructive sleep apnea: The most general form in which throat muscles relax

Central sleep apnea: This type occurs when the brain doesn’t transmit proper signals to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing

It is known to cause many serious ailments, including heart diseases. But recently it has been discovered to affect an individual’s ability to shape spatial memories utilized for daily tasks, including recalling where you parked your car, or remembering how to get home in case you need to take a diversion from your typical route. This type of memory is particularly affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

The results from brain scan investigations studied by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, illustrated for the first time that sleep apnea is linked with tissue loss in brain areas that collect your memory. The scans also depict something far more insidious happening.

As the chief investigator, Ronald Harper, a professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at U.C.L.A., reveals, their findings highlight that impaired breathing during sleep can lead to grave brain damage that upsets the memory and the thinking process. The part of the brain for storing memory seems to shrink in people suffering from this condition. This also adds further evidence that the sleeping and breathing disorder can be a major health threat.

Although researchers are still investigating why the sleep disorder affects brain tissues, they hypothesize that it’s connected to repeated drops in oxygen. Throughout an apnea episode, the brain’s blood vessels contract, depriving its tissue of oxygen, and this leads to the death of cells.

Along with affecting spatial memory, the disorder is also connected to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Roughly 20 million Americans are currently suffering from sleep apnea. The data has shown the significance of early diagnosis and management of this condition. Regrettably, the most effectual treatment is a CPAP machine that many patients find awkward and painful. The U.C.L.A. researchers aim to explore further whether vitamin B1 supplements might assist in restoring memory in the patients by shifting glucose into cells to stop cell death in future.

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