Thanks for the Memories, CPAP
Results of recent study indicate that Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) patients who use CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) for their treatment of the disorder show a noticeable improvement in memory. Research presented at the SLEEP 2010 annual meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies in San Antonio showed results that indicated that OSA patients who were being treated with CPAP therapy outperformed patients who were not receiving treatment by correctly identifying more photographs after one night of sleep.
The study divided 135 adults between the ages of 33 and 65 years into three groups. Seventy-eight people who were diagnosed with OSA and had been using CPAP therapy for three or more weeks comprised the experimental group. The baseline group included 50 people who were diagnosed with OSA but had not been using CPAP. The final group of 30 people who tested negative for OSA comprised the control group.
All participants were monitored overnight by in-lab polysomnography and were shown 20 photographs the night before their sleep. The next morning they were shown 20 pairs of photographs which contained a photo that had been presented the night before, and one that was similar but not shown to them. Participants picked which photo in each pair was the one that they had seen before.
The lead author of the research abstract was Ammar Tahir of the Memory Laboratory in the department of psychology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. He was surprised by the findings. “The most surprising result of our study, thus far, is the noticeable improvement in memory that CPAP patients experience,” he said. “These results suggest the success of CPAP therapy in regenerating obstructive sleep apnea patients’ memory deficits.”
OSA is a sleep-related breathing disorder that occurs when the muscles relax during sleep, causing soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and obstruct the upper airway, leading to pauses in breathing that can reduce blood flow to the brain. Most people with OSA snore loudly and frequently, and suffer from many symptoms of daytime fatigue including memory loss. OSA can be dangerous in that it affects the heart and lungs and is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Although some patients complain about the discomfort of wearing a mask while they sleep, CPAP therapy is the most favored treatment of OSA by physicians because of the results it provides. This study indicates that improved memory is yet another benefit to the therapy, which provides a steady stream of air through a mask that is worn during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open to prevent pauses in breathing and restores normal oxygen levels.
Another interesting discovery from the study indicated that the OSA group using CPAP out-performed the control group without OSA the on the memory tasks. Researchers believe that this is an important finding that could provide direction for future research to study the effect of CPAP therapy on brain function and memory processes.
Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea and the CPAP treatment.
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