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Unveiling the Link Between Sleep Apnea and Cognitive Decline

In the fast-paced world we live in, a good night’s sleep is often undervalued. Yet, its importance cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to cognitive health. One condition that’s gaining increasing attention for its detrimental effects on both sleep quality and cognition is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“Sleep apnea disrupts the normal sleep cycle, leading to reduced amounts of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and slow-wave sleep, which are both critical stages for memory consolidation, recall and development of new insights,” said Meneena Bright, M.D., an expert in Hoag’s Sleep Health Program, part of the Pickup Family Neurosciences institute. “This disruption is associated with an increased risk of premature decline in various forms of neurocognitive function, including Alzheimer’s Dementia and Parkinson’s Dementia.”

Dr. Bright delves into the intricate relationship between sleep apnea and cognitive decline, shedding light on its impact and avenues for potential treatment.

  • Recognizing Symptoms of Sleep Apnea: Research suggests that 90% of people who snore have some degree of sleep apnea. Post-menopausal women over 50 years old are at an increased risk for silent apneas, which often go unnoticed without the accompanied loud snoring but are associated with oxygen desaturations. Other symptoms may include pauses in breathing, morning headaches, dry mouth, frequent nighttime restroom visits, non-restorative sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness and memory lapses.
  • Treating Sleep Apnea and Reducing Cognitive Decline: Studies conducted on a national level reveal promising results that patients with obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) treated with positive airway pressure are less likely to be diagnosed with dementia or mild cognitive impairment in the following three years compared to those who did not use positive airway pressure.
  • Reversibility of Cognitive Decline with Treatment: Patients treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) often report substantial improvements in sleep quality, quantity and restoration. Research has shown measurable enhancements in executive function, verbal learning, memory, mood and significantly slower cognitive decline in OSA patients with sustained use of positive airway pressure compared to those who are left untreated.

By recognizing the signs, seeking timely intervention and embracing effective treatment modalities, individuals can embark on a journey towards better sleep and enhanced cognitive well-being. After all, a good night’s sleep isn’t just a luxury—it’s a cornerstone of overall health and vitality.

Learn more at and take a few minutes to complete our online Sleep Apnea Health Risk Assessment.