Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 08 Feb 2019 The need to address ...

The need to address sleep apnoea

Published Feb 8, 2019, 12:03 pm IST
Updated Feb 8, 2019, 12:07 pm IST
Sleep apnoea may cause memory loss, depression: Study.
Sleep apnoea is a serious disorder and should not be taken lightly as it leads to memory loss and depression even. (Photo: ANI)
 Sleep apnoea is a serious disorder and should not be taken lightly as it leads to memory loss and depression even. (Photo: ANI)

Washington: Sleep apnoea may cause memory loss and make individuals prone to depression, a new study has observed. Getting a sound sleep at night is extremely important for one’s overall health, but people with sleep apnoea, a serious sleep disorder, struggle to remember details of memories from their own lives.

This can potentially making them vulnerable to depression as the results of the study  published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychology Society suggest.


Estimated to affect more than 936 million people worldwide, obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a serious condition that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnoea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep. This means the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen.

People with OSA are known to suffer memory problems and also have higher rates of depression but it is not well understood how these issues are connected with the development of the disease.

The new study led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, examined how the condition affected autobiographical memory and found people with untreated OSA had problems recalling specific details about their lives. Lead investigator Dr Melinda Jackson said the research was built on the known links between depression and memory.

"We know that overly general autobiographical memories, where people don't remember many specific details of life events, are associated with the development of persistent depression," Jackson said.

"Our study suggests sleep apnoea may impair the brain's capacity to either encode or consolidate certain types of life memories, which makes it hard for people to recall details from the past. OSA is increasingly common, affecting up to 30 per cent of elderly people and around one in four Australian men aged over 30,” Jackson added.

The study compared 44 adults with untreated OSA to 44 healthy controls, assessing their recall of different types of autobiographical memories from their childhood, early adult life and recent life.

According to Jackson, "Brain scans of people with sleep apnoea show they have a significant loss of grey matter from regions that overlap with the autobiographic memory network." Jackson said the use of CPAP machines to treat OSA had been shown to improve some of the cognitive impairments related to the condition.