Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. According to new research, people with sleep apnoea struggle to remember details of memories from their own lives which further put them at risk of depression.
For the purpose of the study, the condition was examined to see how it affected autobiographical memory and found people with untreated obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) suffer from memory problems in their lives. However, how these issues are connected with the development of the disease is not completely understood.
"We know that overly general autobiographical memories where people don't remember many specific details of life events -- are associated with the development of persistent depression," said Lead researcher Melinda Jackson from the RMIT University in Australia.
"Our study suggests sleep apnoea may impair the brain's capacity to either encode or consolidate certain types of life memories, which makes it hard for people to recall details from the past," said Jackson.
The lead researcher, Jackson also suggested that it could increase the risk of depression among patients. Hence understanding the neurobiological mechanisms at work will help improve the mental health of millions of patients.
The team compared 44 adults with untreated OSA to 44 healthy controls for the purpose of the study. Their recall of different types of autobiographical memories from their childhood, early adult life, and recent life were assessed.
The results, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychology Society, showed people with OSA had significantly 52.3 percent more over general memories compared with 18.9 percent of the control group.
While people with OSA struggled with semantic memory, their episodic memory was preserved, findings further showed.
This is because of their fragmented sleeping patterns and that good sleep is essential for the consolidation of semantic autobiographical memory, research suggested.
Across both groups, being older was associated with having a higher number of over general autobiographical memories while higher depression was linked to having worse semantic memory.
The results showed the need for further studies to better understand the role of untreated OSA on memory processing, said Jackson.
OSA is estimated to affect more than 936 million people worldwide