Less Sleep, Less Memory



According to research done by the National Sleep Foundation, it shows that around 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a breathing disorder where a person experiences several gaps in breathing that can either last seconds or minutes. Because of this, people who have sleep apnea are often tired when they wake and are out of breath with the least activity, but this is not all.
http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article10360273.ece/alternates/w620/Sleep-deprivation.jpg
Source: Independent.co.uk
Researchers found that people suffering from sleep apnea had a tendency to score lesser on spatial memory testing if slept without using breathing aids, compared to nights they had actually used their breathing aids. Spatial memory is what helps you remember things like the way to get to your child’s school or where you left your keys. New studies suggest that the reason for this is that the capability to remember directions and places may suffer when deep sleep is disturbed by breathing difficulties.
To figure out whether individuals who have sleep apnea indeed had more difficulty forming fresh spatial memories, a research was undertaken with the help of 18 recruits, all of whom suffered with sleep apnea.
The volunteers were asked to spend a couple of nights in their sleep center, about two weeks apart. These were all people who always slept with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to deal with sleep apnea.
On both nights, participants were given a video game maze to complete before falling asleep. The next morning, the same maze was given to them again and they were asked to complete it once more. During one night in the sleep lab, they used CPAP, and the next night, CPAP was turned off or reduced during deep sleep, inducing apnea.
Less Sleep, Less Memory

After sleeping peacefully with the CPAP machine on, most of the volunteers completed the maze with improved timing of about 30 percent, travelling farther into the maze, spending less time backtracking and searching for paths. The night the participants experienced sleep apnea, their timings were about 4 percent lower compared to the night before.
Unfortunately, this study is still shrouded with mystery as even though there is precious little evidence in animal models that REM stage sleep or dreaming is important to refresh the spatial memory, but this has not been shown or proven in people.
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