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Sleep Apnea – Tiredness, Fatigue and Memory Impairment

Sleep Apnea affects 4 % of Americans. About 1 out of 4 middle aged men in America suffer from Sleep Apnea.  Studies suggest that memory impairments can occur from disrupted sleep.

In Sleep Apnea, the sleep cycles are disrupted by periods of difficult breathing. In a new study by  Dr. Andrew Varga,  at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, subjects had impairments in their spatial memory from disrupted REM sleep cycles.

After a night of improper REM sleep, the subjects had difficulty remembering the placement of items and what they did with things the day before.

The REM stage of sleep is the Rapid Eye Movement stage. This is the deep sleep where we have dreams. The REM stage of sleep is critical for the body to repair any tissue damage from the day, such as muscle microtears. It also has to do with processing memories.

A person with disrupted REM sleep may forget where they placed the car keys the day before and have trouble remembering where they parked their car. Another consequence of  incomplete REM cycles is inability to focus and pay attention.

There are 2 different types of Sleep Apnea. They are Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. The causes for the 2 types are different but both of them cause difficulty breathing during sleep and periods of waking up in the middle of  sleep cycles.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea has to do with the airway becoming obstructed.  The muscles in the throat becoming too relaxed and causing a narrowing of the airway. The brain will become aware of low oxygen levels and force you awake to reposition yourself.

Usually people do not remember these brief periods of waking. Every time someone wakes up for a few seconds, it disrupts the sleep stage they are in.

The brain and the rest of the body are not able to finish what they are supposed to do, during that cycle. There are certain repairs and regeneration of tissue that naturally occur during REM sleep.

The 2nd type is less common. Central Sleep Apnea is caused by a problem in the brain.  The brain is supposed to send signals to the lungs to breath.

The brain of  person with Central Sleep Apnea, fails to continuously send the signals properly. The lungs will simply stop doing their job.  The body and the brain will fail to get the necessary level of oxygen, which will cause the person to wake up.

Again, with this type of Sleep Apnea, the person will awaken just long enough to be able to breath properly again. Someone with Central Sleep Apnea may wake up with  shortness of breath.

Men are twice s likely to get sleep apnea. It is most common in men 60 or more. Being overweight contributes to your risk as well as having a family history of Sleep Apnea.  Certain medications are possible contributing factors, such as excessive use of muscle relaxers.

Central Sleep Apnea can occur with people that have heart disease or have had a stroke. It can also be a co-morbidity with neurological disease like ALS.

People that have Sleep Apnea can have  morning headaches and depression. Some people have an increased frequency of urination.

If you have extreme tiredness and sleepiness during the day along with any of the other symptoms I mentioned, you may want to see your doctor.  There are treatments that would reduce your symptoms.

They also could check you for other types of sleep disorders and medical conditions that could be causing the constant fatigue and tiredness.  There are mental illnesses such as depression that can cause some of these symptoms as well as other physical disorders.

Namaste,

Annie

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