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A new study finds that sleep apnea may be detrimental for memory support.

A new study finds that sleep apnea may be detrimental for memory support.

The findings of a study published Wednesday, October 29, in the Journal of Neuroscience suggest that the sleep disorder sleep apnea may be responsible for worsening the memory of those who suffer from it.

According to WebMD, sleep apnea "occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep." That disruption can result in depriving the brain of a sufficient amount of oxygen, which may have a negative impact on brain health. In individuals with the disorder, breathing can be interrupted up to 400 times every night for 10 to 30 seconds at a time.

Clinical instructor Dr. Andrew Varga of the NYU Langone Medical Center led a team of researchers who studied 18 participants with severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The participants' sleep was studied over two nights. First, the individuals were treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) through the night. The second night, CPAP was reduced during REM sleep to allow for OSA.

The resulting data showed that when REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep was interrupted by sleep apnea, the individual's memory was impaired.

Common risk factors for sleep apnea include being male, overweight and over the age of 40, as well as having a family history of the sleep disorder, among other potential causes. However, obstructive sleep apnea doesn't just affect men over 40—one in 10 children also suffers from the condition.

The severity of this sleep disorder make it essential to attend to, as it can cause adverse health and safety conditions if left untreated. In addition to impacting memory support, sleep apnea has been linked to car accidents, heart attacks, strokes and work-related injuries.

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