According to Australian researchers, oxygen deprivation could result in areas of the brain to decrease in size, impairing memory and enhancing the risk for dementia.

A new study shows that people affected with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had a reduced depth in their temporal lobes, and underperformed on memory tests. Researchers believe that treating OSA early may reduce the risk for dementia.

OSA is a condition where the throat narrows while sleeping to the point where breathing becomes difficult. Older people and those who are overweight are usually the populations mostly impacted by it. Many studies have linked OSA to other conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

This new study concluded that OSA may also be directly linked to dementia.

The study suggested that participants with a lower blood oxygen level were not breathing properly while sleeping and that the lack of oxygen resulted in shrinking in the left and right temporal lobes, which reduced the capacity for participants to hold on to new information in tests of their memory. In addition to the temporal lobes, researchers also saw thickness decrease in other regions of the brain.

There is no cure for dementia, so any preventative measure is vital to long-term cognitive health.

If you suspect that your loved one may suffer from OSA, contact your physician immediately. It’s never too early to find ways to prevent cognitive deterioration. Helping those diagnosed with dementia or memory impairment—as well as giving families an improved quality of life—is my goal.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, or if you are interested in dementia care giving training services.