Sleep Apnoea and Memory Loss

Sleep Apnoea & Memory Loss | Benefits Of Sleep

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Intus Healthcare’s writers, customer service team, and sleep experts review and ensure this information is accurate.

Sleep and memory

Sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and formation. Research has shown that getting enough quality sleep can help improve short-term and long-term memory. This page will examine the relationship between sleep and memory. 

During sleep, the brain processes and reorganises information learned during the day, strengthening the connections between neurons and helping to consolidate memories.

Slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep, is thought to be particularly important for memory consolidation. During this stage of sleep, the brain engages in a process called synaptic scaling, which downscales the strength of connections between less active neurons and strengthens the connections between more active neurons, allowing for better memory encoding. 

On the other hand, lack of sleep has been shown to impair memory and cognitive performance. When you are sleep-deprived, your brain has a harder time encoding new information and recalling the information you have learned in the past. This can lead to difficulties with learning and retaining new information and may also contribute to memory problems in the long term.

In conclusion, getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining good memory function and is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Memory loss is a common symptom of the sleep disorder Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). The sleep disorder affects 1.5 million people in the UK and more than 936 million worldwide.

Sleep Apnoea can negatively affect your brain; studies show that CPAP Therapy can repair the damage. Many people often do not realise sleep’s restorative impact on the brain.

During deep sleep, our brains sort out all the information (memories) collected throughout the day. It is in this stage of deep sleep that OSA impacts your memory.

This article will discuss the link between Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and memory loss.

When Sleep Apnoea is untreated, breathing pauses occur, and deep sleep is disturbed or prevented.

When your deep sleep is disrupted, your memory is affected. 

These breathing pauses and reductions in airflow stop oxygen from reaching your brain.

Your brain reacts to the drop in oxygen by momentarily waking you up. Choking during sleep is your brain waking you up.

The lack of oxygen decreases concentration, memory and brain performance. 

Researchers found in 42 studies (1) investigating memory performance and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea that those with untreated OSA were significantly impaired compared to those with treated OSA.

Due to poor memory and brain fog, many people with untreated OSA suffer from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, 85% of people with OSA are undiagnosed

Does Sleep Apnoea Lead to Dementia and Alzheimer’s? 

Poor sleep from sleep disorders can cause cognitive decline and increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Research shows:

  • People with sleep disorders are 26% more likely (2). to develop cognitive impairment than those without. 
  • Those with sleep disorders have a 1.55 higher risk (3) of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. 
  • A study found that those who get less REM sleep are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s (4).
  • It is estimated that around 40% of dementia cases (5) are believed to be attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors, including untreated OSA.

Fortunately, there are treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea that can prevent cognitive decline. 

To get the sleep you deserve and help prevent memory issues, ensure your Sleep Apnoea is treated. The treatment of CPAP therapy can prevent memory loss due to OSA.

OSA is a sleep disorder where your airway closes during sleep.

When this happens, you stop breathing; these breathing pauses can occur up to 400 times per night. A person experiencing this will never reach the deep, quality sleep they need and will wake up exhausted.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnoea are:

Take an in-home sleep test (Sleep Apnoea test) if you recognise any of the above symptoms in yourself.

You will receive your results within two working days – this is a reliable alternative option to the NHS sleep clinic. Our sleep test also includes a follow-up with helpful guidance on your treatment options. 


Sleep Apnoea treatments to help memory loss

You may wonder how to treat Sleep Apnoea to prevent other conditions.

Here are some lifestyle changes you could make:

Lifestyle changes do not eliminate Sleep Apnoea but can help reduce symptoms.

However, there are treatment options that prevent breathing pauses during your sleep and help your memory:

  • CPAP Therapy: A CPAP machine (Sleep Apnoea machine) is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. The device opens your airway by supplying air pressure via a CPAP tube to a CPAP mask. 
  • Mandibular Advancement Devices: These oral appliances open your airway to prevent breathing pauses.
  • Positional Sleep Therapy: A small device that vibrates when you turn on your back to encourage sleeping on your side to prevent apnoeas. 

Please note that treatment for your OSA depends on your severity.

We cannot stress enough how important sleep plays in a person’s fitness and health levels. This is not just limited to physical health – sleep also significantly impacts mental well-being.

Research suggests that the average adult should get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. And if they do so, they can expect a boost in their energy levels and benefits to their heart and weight. They can also expect an enhancement in their memory, mood and mental capability.

According to researchers, people were better at remembering new faces and names when they got eight hours of quality sleep.

Regarding sleep and memory, this research further supports the emphasis on identifying and treating sleeping disorders, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.


  1. Anna Wallace (2013) Memory and Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Meta-Analysis. Available at: (Accessed: September 13, 2022)
  2.  Yue Leng (2017) Association of Sleep-Disordered Breathing With Cognitive Function and Risk of Cognitive Impairment. Available at: (Accessed: September 13, 2022)
  3. PubMed (2017) Sleep, Cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Available at: (Accessed: September 13, 2022)
  4. American Academy of Neurology (2017) Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community. Available at: (Accessed: September 13, 2022)
  5.  PubMed (2021) Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cognitive Decline: A Review of Potential Vulnerability and Protective Factors. Available at: (Accessed: September 13, 2022)
Staff Writer Danielle Myatt | Intus Healthcare

Author: Danielle Myatt

About author: Danielle joined the Intus Healthcare team in 2022 and since then has become passionate about providing informative blogs and content that help raise awareness of Sleep Apnoea and guide those who suspect they may have the condition. Danni is a degree educated content writer and works closely with our clinical team and customer services team to ensure her articles are well-researched and accurate.
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