"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Sleep apnea could cause cognitive problems: study

April 13, 2023 – A small recent study suggests that obstructive sleep apnea may result in considering problems.

The study compared the cognitive functions of men with sleep apnea with those of men who didn't suffer from this sleep problem. The researchers found that those affected had less ability to pay attention, poorer memory and poorer social judgment.

Until now, problems with brain functions corresponding to memory and concentration in individuals with sleep apnea have been linked to other health problems corresponding to obesity, hypertension or type 2 diabetes.

People with essentially the most severe sleep apnea had the worst cognitive functions. The study involved 27 men with untreated obstructive sleep apnea who took part in sleep studies and cognitive testing at King's College London in England. The men were otherwise healthy and between the ages of 35 and 70. The results were published this month in Limits in sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is essentially the most common type of sleep apnea and ends in a blockage of airflow in or out of the mouth or nose, even when someone is attempting to breathe. According to a study, as much as 18 million people within the United States suffer from sleep apnea. Johns Hopkins MedicineHowever, it occurs more steadily in individuals with obesity.

The researchers said their study is the primary to report on the consequences of sleep apnea on social cognition. The American Psychological Association defines social cognition as the power of individuals to “perceive, reason about, interpret, categorize, and judge their own social behavior and that of others.”

The authors also reported that the group of men with sleep apnea had significant impairments in the next cognitive functions:

  • Sustained attention
  • Executive functions corresponding to behavior regulation and decision making
  • Visual memory
  • Impulse control

“Our results suggest that certain OSA-related processes, particularly in severe OSA, may be sufficient for cognitive changes to occur in otherwise healthy men as early as middle age,” the study authors concluded.