Brain fog and sleep apnea

by Travis Hennager
(Orlando, FL)

I've been having brain fog all of a sudden for about 5 days. Basically the symptoms of this are trouble concentrating, short term memory loss, confusion, a feeling of detachment, depression an anxiety. This happened all of a sudden over night and I am fetid to figure out if it is because of sleep apnea.

Have you heard of brain fog happening as a result of sleep apnea? If you google brain fog I have every symptom :-/


Dear Travis,

Many people with sleep apnea never heard about brain fog, and I want to thank you for asking, because there is a lot to talk about it.

If we describe the symptoms of brain fog, also named cognitive dysfunction, many readers with sleep apnea will understand what brain fog means.

The brain fog symptoms

  • you can't focus,

  • forget why you came into a room,

  • when you read a paragraph from a book, you can't read further without having to start over again because you've forgotten what you've read,

  • you feel like running on autopilot all day, not interacting with anything and anyone,

  • you feel that your body is not physically tired, but your brain is,

  • you feel like watching a life rather than participating in it.

  • you are trying to remember something but everything is just blank,

  • ordinary activities require an extra effort to perform or complete,

  • can't think of the correct words to use in conversation,

  • you can't solve math problems as well as you once could,

  • and many more...

Causes of brain fog

Travis, you asked me if brain fog can be caused by sleep apnea. I know that is difficult for you to follow all the things that I write, so I'll try to be short. Here is my answer:

Yes, brain fog, or cognitive dysfunction, can be caused by sleep apnea.

In fact, scientists discovered that cognitive dysfunction can be due to chronic sleep difficulties at any age. So not only sleep apnea can be the cause, but also insomnia and narcolepsy can be risk factors.

Cognitive dysfunction in patients with obstructive sleep apnea has been demonstrated in a number of studies, but the reason is not quite clear.

Recent studies have suggested that hypoxemia - the deficient oxygenation of the blood - is the main cause for memory problems and physical abilities. The second cause is excessive daytime sleepiness, which appear due to sleep fragmentation.

Treatment of brain fog

The question is...can you treat the brain fog when you have sleep apnea?

Good news! You can catch two rabbits with one shoot: treat sleep apnea and the braig fog will improve, even disappear!

One small study evaluating the effects of CPAP therapy on 20 patients with severe obstructive apnea found that most patients demonstrated significant improvement in brain fog. However, most of the patients didn't improve immediately, but in 3 months to 12 month after CPAP therapy was started.

Anyway, the treatment with CPAP demonstrated significant improvements in memory, concentration, verbal fluency and alertness.

If you don't have yet a CPAP, the best way to improve your brain fog is to sleep on the side. Read the page about positional therapy to understand how can this be helpful for you.

I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide

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Oct 25, 2012
seizure, sleepwalking
by: R Ijams

I had never sleepwalked before and had never had a seizure before using a cpap. I'm 51 and 10/1/12 had a seizure after trying to use cpap all nite. Had brain fog when I woke up. So I laid back down to clear my head.

E MT's were next thing I remember. Which would have made seizure last about 40 minutes Oh and loss of bladder control. 6/8/12 sleepwalked out of semi that was going 60mph when I opened door and got out like truck was parked.

My wife yelling at me had no effect. State trooper was on scene by the time I was responsive. Frac pelvic, frac 3 ribs crushed rt wrist concussion and road rash. I put mask on and granddaughter said I never laid down.

CPAP investors on target to make Billions. Have found an other story of sleepwalking. And a death while tested in sleep lap.

Who REALLY benefits??? And then plan for world wide sleep medicine. Kids as young as 2, even infants on cpap. 4 million $ law suit by investors that were defrauded by man that said he had PhD. GA case. I Have 25 yrs otr. Also a 2 million mile safe driving award. Can't drive even a car now after using CPAP.

Aug 08, 2014
Brain fog
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your imput on Brain fog, it is nice to know that with Cpap it will in time go away. I live in a foriegn country when I discovered that I had sleep apnea so the communication is not always forthright. To know after 1 week that my brain fog is not clearing was upsetting but now I understand it will take up to 3 months. My question is, once using the CPAP is it ever possible to condition yourself, maybe through weight loss and exersise to not be dependant on it forever? is there a way I can sleep without the CPAP?
regards from Germany
M. Martens

Mar 03, 2016
Tonsils removal
by: Anonymous

Im diagnised with sleep apnea as well. Snoring, stop beeathing at night - I also have all the symptoms that was listed. I tried cpap but waa cery uncomfortable. My doctor told me I have super enlarged tonsils that prohibit sufficient windflow while sleeping. I plan on getting them removed. And actually , I have a friend with sleep apnea whom had tinsils removed as well - snoring decreased, breathing while sleeping increased as well. Tonsils removed may be an option for some.

Mar 04, 2016
Brain fog and sleep apnea
by: R Ijams

By: Martha Garcia | Published: April 15th, 2013

Nearly two dozen universities failed to properly warn parents that a national oxygen study may put their premature infants at risk, federal officials say.

According to a letter (PDF) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the lead institution in the study, research institutions involved in the study did not offer informed consent to the parents of the premature infants.

The study involved 1,300 premature infants between 24 to 27 weeks of gestation. Researchers evaluated the results of increased or decreased oxygen through a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment to determine the levels of oxygen saturation and neurological effects on premature infants.

According to the letter, the institutions involved were aware of the potential adverse affects the treatment may have on the infants, including blindness and even death. The DHHS Office of Human Research Protection says the institutions had sufficient evidence to know such treatment may cause serious consequences, but never properly informed parents participating in the study about the potential risks. The office considers the failing a violation of regulatory requirements for informed consent.

The study took place between 2004 and 2009 and 130 infants of 654 in the low oxygen level group died, while 91 of 509 infants in the high oxygen group developed a serious eye problem, which can result in blindness.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, was financed by the National Institutes of Health and involved 23 high profile Universities, such as Stanford, Duke and Yale.

The consent form only mentioned risks involving abrasion of the infants skin, and claimed there was a potential benefit of decreased need for eye surgery if the infant was assigned to a certain oxygen level group.

DHHS officials say the consent form should have highlighted that the risks of the trial were not the same as the risks of receiving standard care, so parents could make a more informed decision.

Mar 04, 2016
Brain fog and sleep apnea
by: R Ijams

I'v found billions in fraud connected to sleep studies. I sleep walked out of a semi 6/8/2012. My wife was driving and granddaughter was in passinger seat. Was put on cpap Feb 2012. When I called I told sleep folks I didn't feel better. Was told I'd get used to it. 10/1/12 I had a seizure. Have had 6 known seizures sence then. Trying to get on disabilty. Have over 2 million safe driving miles with Prime Inc. Was not brought in for more sleep testing till after sleep walking with cpap. I know of other sleep walking cases. And have found you can become cpap dependent. 02 toxicity in lungs which can cause cysts that can go undetected. Pulse ox senser on finger doesn't give good reading because hemoglobin in blood tries to protect body. It said researchers new that effect would be hard to prove. Can't find Doc willing to go against sleep folks.

Mar 04, 2016
Brain Fog
by: Anonymous

I thanks you for posting your question about brain fog. It has plagued me for years before my OSA diagnosis but 9 months of using the CPAP gave me no relief in symptoms. Positional sleeping helped until I got a cold and I am now back in the fog. How does one re-oxygenate the blood once awake to curb the brain fog until a breath obstrucktion passes?

Apr 27, 2016
To be reasurred
by: Anonymous

I have epilepsy and cognitive decline also sleep apnea moderate I have had brain fog and I have felt my memory worse I sit there questioning myself can u reassure me

May 01, 2016
On CPAP 20 years
by: Anonymous

I have been on CPAP treatment for about 20 years, I have tried all machines and settings out there and the drain fog seems to be worsening as the years go by. I use an autocpap for the past 5 years or so. Anxiety and "beside myself feelings" (feeling like I am not an active participant in my life and like I am looking at myself do and say things but not feeling them) seem to be the norm for the past 2 years or so. Any thoughts on where to go from here as far as "getting back to normal "whatever that may be?

Meds are out of the question for me, because I feel that if the problem is OSA, then the solution must be there to find and not by medicating the symptoms, but rather treat the cause.

I have had laser UPP, septoplasty, and adenoidectomy in the past and Doctors say everything is fine structurally.

Thank you

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