The Link Between Sleep Habits and Memory
It’s easy to write off symptoms like memory loss and difficulty focusing as side effects of stress or preoccupation rather than telltale signs of a medical problem. And in some cases, that impulse is totally fine. But when symptoms become consistent enough and severe enough, it becomes hard to ignore what is most likely an underlying medical condition.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, memory loss and difficulty focusing have been added to the list of sleep apnea’s typical symptoms, which include bouts of unusually loud snoring, nightmares, chronic fatigue, and mood swings. The study measured the size of sleep apnea patients’ mammillary bodies, which are breast-shaped structures located on the bottom of the brain. The size of a person’s mammillary bodies is thought to correlate with the health of their memory, as people with memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s often have smaller mammillary bodies than people without.
The study found that the mammillary bodies of people with sleep apnea were almost 20 percent smaller. This finding provides strong evidence supporting a link between sleep apnea and neurological issues such as memory loss and difficulty focusing. But how does sleep apnea cause reduced mammillary bodies? The researchers suggested that the damage to the mammillary bodies is caused by oxygen deprivation. At some point in an apnea episode, blood vessels in the brain constrict, causing tissue to be deprived of oxygen.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs when your airway is obstructed while you sleep, and it is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. This obstruction disrupts your regular breathing cycle, which prevents you from sleeping as deeply as you normally would without the disorder. There are a number of predictors for sleep apnea, including gender (men are more likely to have it than women), age (older people are more likely to have it than younger), and weight. If you are overweight or obese, you are significantly more likely to have sleep apnea—potentially four times as likely, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Research also shows that when you don’t sleep soundly through the night, hormone levels become imbalanced, specifically leptin, ghrelin, and insulin—the hormones that manage hunger, appetite, and blood sugar. Cortisol, the stress hormone released from adrenal glands, is another vital hormone that makes weight gain more probable when you don’t get good sleep.
Reducing stress and controlling blood sugar levels are key ingredients to a healthy body and mind. Whether you have sleep apnea or not, providing your body with the support it needs—including adrenal support, blood sugar management, hormone balancing, or all of the above—will lead to improved health and quality of sleep. This is why the expert physicians in the BodyLogicMD network can help you regulate your lifestyle and hormone balance to increase overall wellbeing. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, targeted supplements, and lifestyle interventions that address your unique issues can help you get better sleep and lose weight, while improving memory and focus. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, contact a physician near you today and start living a healthier, more energetic life.