Memory May Improve Through Treating Sleep Apnea

Sleep is one of the most important parts of everyday life. It allows the brain to take a break and recharge, as well as preserve and consolidate one’s memory and any new information learned earlier in the day. However, sleep can be interrupted, thus disrupting the brain’s ability to reorganize, process, and preserve information. One such sleep disruption that can occur is sleep apnea. 

 What is sleep apnea, and how does it occur?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the throat region closes partially (hypopnea) or fully (apnea) during sleep. This causes blockages and obstructions that can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute. Once the obstruction has stopped, the individual will slightly awaken and begin breathing again. When this happens, individuals are unaware that this happened, and do not wake up entirely during the awakening. This can happen up to 30 times per hour, resulting in periods of broken sleep throughout the night causing an individual to feel drowsy and have low energy during the following day. Currently, the main treatment utilized for sleep apnea is called continuous positive airway pressure therapy, also known as CPAP. This therapy technique involves using a machine that supplies more oxygen and keeps the upper airway open while individuals sleep. 

Sleep apnea has been linked to the development of aging disorders, such as dementia. Because of sleep fragmentation and blood appearing in the oxygen of those with this disorder, researchers have found that sleep apnea is associated with a 26% increase in the development of cognitive impairment in adults. Experiencing sleep apnea also leads to a greater concentration of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which is one of the major proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease

Sleep Apnea and Short Term Memory

This study decided to take a further look into the effect of sleep apnea on short term memory. Researchers tested older adults who had symptoms and a diagnosis of sleep apnea to see if treatment for sleep apnea would improve short term memory. Participants met with trained staff who helped them get adjusted to the therapy. Some participants received CPAP first and then no treatment, and some received no treatment and then CPAP. After experiencing both the treatment and no treatment, the participants took a series of cognitive tests.


Overall, researchers found varying results. While CPAP did not benefit one’s thinking skills, there was evidence that there was an improvement in memory. From these findings, it suggests that sleep apnea treatment may have positive effects in the short term, but it cannot be concluded if it does or does not impact long-term memory and cognitive functioning. Furthermore, this research, while still early on, has provided some interesting insights. Therapists can work with clients who suffer from Sleep Apnea by using cognitive tools to help improve and work on short term memory. By putting time into this, clients can further their skills and maintain a strong memory despite having Sleep Apnea. This can also assist in their overall mental health and wellbeing too; if clients are able to maintain a stronger short term memory, they will feel better during times when they are productive instead of feeling drowsy and out of it. 


Hoyos, C. (2022, May 21). Treating sleep apnea can improve memory in people with cognitive decline. Tribuneindia News Service. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from

Jenna Doran

Jenna Doran is a rising Senior at Temple University studying English and Psychology. She is very excited to be joining the HappyNeuron Pro team as the Content Marketing Intern this summer. Jenna has completed past internships and held leadership positions in extracurriculars dedicated to mental health and wellness programming and development. She is looking forward to utilizing these skills and working with the team!

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