Sleep apnea is a disorder that can have a significant impact on your memory. This means that it affects your ability to recall specific facts, but that’s not the only type of memory impacted by sleep apnea. Even more profoundly impacted is procedural memory, which in turn can have a dramatic impact on your ability to perform certain tasks.

What Is Procedural Memory?

Man writing on a notepadProcedural memory is a type of long-term memory that controls the acquisition, recall, and execution of motor-related tasks. It’s considered a type of implicit memory, or memories that you can recall without thinking about them consciously.

As a result, you may not be aware of all the skills that are being impacted by your sleep apnea, but maybe you should be.


Handwriting is a complex motor task, involving many fine motor movements in a precisely controlled sequence to create letters in the desired sequence to create words. Sleep apnea makes it harder to recall those memories, resulting in worse handwriting, including messier and slower handwriting.


But, you might say, I rarely handwrite anything anymore. I type all my messages. That may be so, but typing is also impacted by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea makes it harder to learn and recall a sequence of keystrokes, which may include the letters in the next word you’re going to type.  It can also slow down your typing speed.

Smartphone Use

Have you ever noticed that some days you seem to be really fumble-fingered on your phone? Some days you may have a hard time swiping and dragging icons, or you may just find yourself tapping on the wrong part of the screen. Although part of your smartphone use is a conscious effort, much of it depends on learned skills that become automatic over time. When you’re tired, you may find that your gestures aren’t as precise as you would like and may run afoul of algorithms designed to distinguish among an increasingly sophisticated tactile language.

Bike Riding

Bike riding is the prototypical procedural memory skill. You can’t forget it, right? Wrong. If your brain is having difficulty accessing procedural memory skills, even something as elementary as bike riding may not be so elementary after all.


We commonly attribute the high accident rate of people with sleep apnea to dozing off at the wheel, which is probably the chief cause of problems. But driving a car depends on procedural memory, too. How much you turn the wheel to steer the car, how much you apply the brakes to stop, just how and when to engage the clutch when shifting–all these procedural tasks can be impacted by sleep apnea.

Video Games

Video game playing skill can be impacted by cognitive memory related to navigating the video game environment and the procedural skill of how to maneuver the controller to create desired effects.


We often forget that speaking is a fine motor skill. Your ability to retain fluency depends on remembering the precise configuration of your lips, tongue, and teeth. When you lose access to these fine motor controls because of sleep apnea, your ability to speak clearly diminishes. Measurable disability in the pronunciation of some letters has been linked to sleep apnea.

For comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment in Omaha that can help prevent impairment in these and other procedural memory tasks, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.