Sleep’s Impact on Learning and Memory

Article Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Sleep is a key factor in learning and memory. Sharp brain waves produced during sleep help create memories and allow new information to be stored. For instance, if you learn the golf downswing today, your brain will store this information while you sleep so you can recall this magic move tomorrow.

    Saving in Progress

    Every night, while catching up on your Zs, your hippocampus is providing a detailed play-by-play on new information and experiences to the neocortex (1). As this information is reviewed, long-term memory is formed.

    Untreated OSA’s Affect on Your Memory

    OSA: Learning, Memory, and Sleep

    Have you been experiencing symptoms of Sleep Apnea, like exhaustion, fatigue, or frequent headaches? If so, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your symptoms. Untreated Sleep Apnea can elevate your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and more.  It may also impair certain memory abilities, as studies show that hypopneas and apneas tend to last longer and occur more frequently during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (1). “What” you know and “how” you do things are memories formed during this stage of the sleep cycle. Therefore, the consolidation of fact and process-based information is at risk if OSA goes untreated.

    The good news is that consistent and regular use of CPAP helps!

    CPAP to the Rescue

    Research suggests that using CPAP consistently and regularly improves memory performance. By helping you sleep through the night and providing your brain with the necessary oxygen, memory abilities impaired by OSA can be recouped.

    A study regarding performance on an overnight picture memory task showed that those with OSA who use CPAP had better memory than those who don’t use CPAP. Even more, they outperformed those without Sleep Apnea!

    So remember:

    ・Sleep therapy allows for a longer sleep with fewer interruptions.
    ・An increase in oxygen amounts to a higher brain cell count.
    ・Sleep improves the ability to concentrate and understand information.

    Plus, using CPAP for six hours or more per night makes it eight times more likely to have normal memory abilities (2). So, keep in mind that CPAP makes it easier to get a good night’s sleep, which is crucial before and after learning something new.

    For more information about Sleep Apnea, please read Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea and How to Treat It. Feel free to call 1.800.356.5221 with any questions.


    (1) “Management of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome”- M. Johns, 1997

    (2) “Working Memory in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Construct Validity and Treatment