Sleep deprivation and memory loss – Memory declines with age, but it was not clear why. A new study may provide part of the answer. The report, posted by the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.
The findings suggest that one way to slow memory decline in aging adults is to improve sleep, specifically the so-called slow-wave phase, which constitutes about a quarter of a normal night’s slumber.
Doctors cannot reverse structural changes that occur with age but there are ways to improve sleep patterns. In some studies when sleep was improved there was improved memory. Dr. Paller said that a whole array of changes occurs across the brain during aging and that sleep was only one factor affecting memory function. But he said the study told “a convincing story, I think: that atrophy is related to slow-wave sleep, which we know is related to memory performance. So it’s a contributing factor.”
“The analysis showed that the differences were due not to changes in capacity for memories, but to differences in sleep quality,” said Bryce A. Mander, a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley and the lead author of the study. “Essentially, with age, you lose tissue in this prefrontal area,” Dr. Walker said. “You get less quality deep sleep, and have less opportunity to consolidate new memories.”
Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss. The researchers showed that just one week of sleep deprivation altered participants’ hormone levels and their capacity to metabolize carbohydrates. People who trade sleep for work or play may get used to it and feel less fatigued but are, none the less, sleep deprived.
During sleep-deprivation, the researchers also found that the sleep-deprived men had higher nighttime concentrations of the hormone cortisol, which also helps regulate blood sugar, and lower levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone. These raised cortisol levels mimic levels that are often seen in older people, and may be involved in age-related insulin resistance and memory loss. Sleep debts are like stress.
Given all of the studies that show that we need sleep and we need a good quality of sleep, I am shocked to hear how many people do not sleep well or for enough hours on a regular basis. Some say that they are restless and toss and turn. Others say that pain keeps them awake and so many say that the stress in their lives is the culprit. All have the same effect…… We are ageing before our time and developing age-related diseases at younger ages. I have talked about what stress does to our bodies and the relationship between stress and disease. Now by not sleeping we add to the stress and guess what?? Our health and every dimension of our lives suffer…. Our work, our play, our friends and family.
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