Blame your sleep apnea for forgetting where you parked your car

Scientists have revealed that sleep apnea may affect people's ability to form new spatial memories, such as remembering where they have parked their car.

ANI| Last Updated: Oct 30, 2014, 19:04 PM IST

Washington: Scientists have revealed that sleep apnea may affect people's ability to form new spatial memories, such as remembering where they have parked their car.

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center conclude people took longer to complete a 3D maze when sleep apnea disrupted the REM stage of sleep.

The study has found that through the playing of a specific video game that disruption of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep as a consequence of sleep apnea impairs spatial memory in humans even when other sleep stages are intact.

The research, led by Andrew Varga, MD, PhD, clinical instructor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at NYU Langone and an attending physician in NYU's Sleep Disorders Center, builds on earlier studies in rodents demonstrating that deprivation of REM sleep has detrimental effects on memory.

However, this is the first study to demonstrate the importance of REM sleep for spatial memory in humans, and to document the negative consequence of sleep apnea on spatial memory.

Varga said that their study has shown for the first time that sleep apnea, an increasingly common medical condition, might negatively impact formation of certain memories, even when the apnea is limited to REM sleep and the findings suggest memory loss might be an additional symptom for clinicians to screen for in their patients with sleep apnea.

The study was published in Journal of Neuroscience.