Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may improve their memory by using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). A new study published in the December issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), shows that the majority of patients with OSA, who were memory-impaired prior to treatment, demonstrated normal memory performance after 3 months of optimal CPAP use. The study also showed that memory improvement varied based on CPAP adherence. Patients who used CPAP for at least 6 hours a night were nearly eight times as likely to demonstrate normal memory abilities compared with patients who used CPAP for 2 or fewer hours a night.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which airways close and induce a temporary brief awakening. Patients are, thus, unable to go through normal cycles of sleep phases, resulting in, effectively, sleep deprivation. This study is a nice additional evidence for the importance of sleep in learning and memory.