06 Aug OSA and cognitive performance, focus and memory
Good sleep helps us to think clearly, remember information, and make decisions. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, it impairs our “executive function”—a set of abilities we need to do well in school, at work, and in all realms of daily life. (National sleep Foundation)
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is often associated with impairments in cognitive functioning. However, in this article we will explain a little bit about what problems could be present if you have OSA.
In one systematic review, researchers assessed the available literature on subjective measures of cognition in adult OSA patients. They found that:
- Concentration complaints, memory and executive function problems, psycho-motor function, and language abilities were consistently found to be more severe in untreated OSA patients as compared to primary snorers and healthy controls.
- Cognitive complaints appear to be at least partially related to subjective sleepiness. Importantly, they are not necessarily a sign of objective cognitive impairment.
- The reason some scientists explain is that it is related with the amount of oxygen our brain receives during the day and night, and the way the body removes CO2.
- As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short to long-term. Without enough quality sleep, we can become more forgetful. Studies suggest that sleeping shortly after we learn new information helps us retain and recall that information later.
- OSA is a risk factor for developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia in the aging population and stresses the importance of its early diagnosis and treatment.
- National Sleep Foundation. How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-lack-sleep-impacts-cognitive-performance-and-focus
- Vaessen, Tim J A; et al. Cognitive complaints in obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Volume 19, February 2015, Pages 51-58. Available: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087079214000410?via%3Dihub
- Gagnon K, et al. Cognitive impairment in obstructive sleep apnea. Pathol Biol (Paris). 2014 Oct;62(5):233-40. doi: 10.1016/j.patbio.2014.05.015. Epub 2014 Jul 25.
- Olaithe M, et al. Cognitive deficits in obstructive sleep apnea: Insights from a meta-review and comparison with deficits observed in COPD, insomnia, and sleep deprivation. Sleep Med Rev. 2018 Apr;38:39-49. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2017.03.005. Epub 2017 Mar 30.