The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Memory Loss

June 13, 2008
Obstructive Sleep Apnea from the word itself means there is an obstruction to sleep.  As a result majority of our obese diabetics who have OSA almost always have this obstruction corrected, diagnosed and managed because of the complications that can arise for this condition including stroke, heart disease and worsening diabetes.

Partners of patients with sleep apnea will complain that their partners snore a lot, usually stops breathing and awaken repeatedly during the night.  Due to the lack of deep sleep, these patients manifest chronic daytime fatigue with memory lapses and importantly has difficulty  concentrating or focusing.

A new review published in the Neuroscience Letters this June shows that there is a relationship between this condition and the dreaded memory loss. And that this memory loss is not only because of fatigue but structural abnormalities in the brain:
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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients show compromised emotional and cognitive functions, including anterograde memory deficits. While some memory inadequacies in OSA may result from earlier-described structural deficits in the hippocampus, mammillary body injury also could contribute,
We evaluated mammillary body volumes in 43 OSA and 66 control subjects. Two high-resolution T1-weighted image volumes were collected on a 3.0 T magnetic resonance scanner, averaged to improve signal-to-noise, and reoriented (without warping) into a common space. Brain sections containing both mammillary bodies were oversampled, and the bodies were manually traced and volumes calculated.
  • OSA patients showed significantly reduced left, right, and combined mammillary body volumes compared with control subjects, after partitioning for age, gender, and head size (multivariate linear model, p < 0.05).
  • Left-side mammillary bodies showed greater volume reduction than the right side.
  • Diminished mammillary body volume in OSA patients may be associated with memory and spatial orientation deficits found in the syndrome.
  •  The mechanisms contributing to the volume loss are unclear, but may relate to hypoxic/ischemic processes, possibly assisted by nutritional deficiencies in the syndrome.

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There you go guys…. if you have the symptoms of OSA, have it checked right away.  It can be treated and managed so as to avoid brain injury.  It has been shown that repeated bouts of apnea or lack of oxygen flow to the brain can lead to brian cell death which eventually can lead to memory loss or forgetfullness!!!!

How to address OSA?  If you are obese then try to lose weight.  This is one of the major complications of being overweight and being obese.  We have sleep centers that can manage this disease medically or surgically.

Sleep Debt Equals Health Debt!

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