Sleep Apnea Affects Memory and Video Games Prove It

Sleep apnea has become a major health concern in the US. If left untreated, it can lead to various health problems such as heart failure, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and heart attacks. Individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea seek support from breathing devices to help them live healthy lives.

Although these breathing devices, like a BiPAP machine, can be costly, you can easily find a BiPAP machine for sale in great condition at a lower cost. On the other hand, a top-notch quality and innovative ResMed BiPAP machine can be bought first-hand too.

No matter what, the good news is that sleep apnea symptoms can be alleviated with these oxygen therapy machines. Otherwise, its symptoms, such as hypersomnia, insomnia, irritability, and morning headaches, can be quite debilitating.

One of the symptoms that is not really taken into account by clinicians is memory loss which is based on scientific research conducted on October 29, 2014, by NYU Langone Medical Center.

If you’re interested in knowing how sleep apnea affects memory based on research, read this article below!

Study to Demonstrate the Importance of REM Sleep

This study based on video games was led by doctor Andrew Varga, clinical instructor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at NYU Langone.

Although Dr. Varga had conducted research on rodents earlier to prove that lack of REM sleep can have a harmful impact on memory. It was the very first time in 2014 that he documented the significance of REM sleep for spatial memory and how sleep apnea can have a detrimental effect on human spatial memory.

What Is Spatial Memory?

Before diving in deeper, you must understand what spatial memory is. Spatial memory helps you navigate places and locate objects, which would otherwise lead to wandering behavior, which is common in Alzheimer’s patients.

For example, recalling your route to work or home, remembering where the light switch is in the bedroom, or remembering where you have placed your car keys.

How Did Video Games Prove Sleep Apnea Affect Memory?

It should be kept in mind that sleep apnea can happen at any sleep phase. However, sleep apnea symptoms tend to exacerbate in the REM sleep stage because your body naturally gets relaxed in this stage, and so do the muscles in the upper respiratory tract.

Therefore, the results of this scientific research are based on REM sleep. For this, 18 research participants with severe sleep apnea spent two nights in the NYU Sleep Disorders Center sleep lab playing video games (3D maze) before and after sleep.

They were already under the treatment regimen of CPAP machines. On night 1, they used the CPAP machines as they did in their homes. Whereas, on night 2, during REM sleep phase, the use of CPAP machines was reduced, which led to the occurrence of sleep apnea.

After two days, there was a significant difference in their video game performance. The night when research participants slept with the support of CPAP machines, there was a 30% improvement in completing the 3D maze video game. Whereas, the other night, the results dropped by 4% due to sleep apnea.

Dr. Varga concluded that even when sleep apnea was limited to REM sleep, it still impacted spatial memory. Hence, clinicians should start considering it as one of the symptoms of sleep apnea in their patients.