Sleep apnea linked to problems recalling specific autobiographical details

  • The connection between sleep apnea and depression may lie in a problem with autobiographical memory.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep.

People with OSA are known to suffer memory problems and also have higher rates of depression.

A new study connects the two by finding that people with untreated OSA had problems recalling specific details about their lives. Previous research has established that persistent depression is associated with overly general autobiographical memories, where people don't remember many specific details of life events.

It may be that sleep apnea impairs the ability to either encode or consolidate certain types of life memories.

The study, involvidng 44 adults with untreated OSA and 44 healthy age-matched controls (average age 49), found that those with OSA had significantly more overgeneral memories: 52.3% compared with 18.9% of the controls.

OSA participants also had significantly poorer semantic recall of early adult life (facts from your personal history, like the names of your school teachers).

Across both groups, being older was associated with having a higher number of overgeneral autobiographical memories while higher depression was linked to having worse semantic memory.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/ru-sac013119.php

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