Do you feel like you’re getting more and more forgetful? It could be due to your quality of sleep.
According to a new research study by UC Berkeley, not getting a full, quality nights rest could result in memory loss.
Making it Through the Hippocampus
UC Berkeley researchers found that the brain waves produced when we are young, in deep sleep, are crucial to the transition of memories to the hippocampus.
The slow brain waves generated in deep sleep provide short-term memory storage. Due to poor quality deep sleep, Berkeley researchers find the memories are being ‘overwritten’ because they are not making it through the hippocampus.
“Healthy adults typically spend one-quarter of the night in deep, non-rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Slow waves are generated by the brain’s middle frontal lobe. Deterioration of this frontal region of the brain in elderly people is linked to their failure to generate deep sleep, the study found.”
Measuring Brain Activity
On January 27, UC Berkeley neuroscientists conducted a memory test on 18 young adults (in their 20′s) and 15 older adults (in their 70′s) by having them study 120 word sets before going to sleep.
While sleeping, each participant was hooked up to an electroencephalographic (EEG) machine to measure brain activity.
The next morning, the participants underwent functional and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans while being tested on the same 120 sets.
Understanding Brain Deterioration
In older adults, the results showed a clear link between the degree of brain deterioration in the middle frontal lobe and the severity of impaired “slow wave activity” during sleep.
On average, the quality of their deep sleep was 75 percent lower than that of the younger participants, and their memory of the word pairs the next day was 55 percent worse.
Meanwhile, in younger adults, brain scans showed deep sleep had efficiently helped to shift their memories from the short-term storage of the hippocampus to the long-term storage of the prefrontal cortex.
The findings suggest improving deep sleep in older adults could help improve memory.
“What we have discovered is a dysfunctional pathway that helps explain the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss as we get older – and with that, a potentially new treatment avenue.” -Matthew Walker
Enhancing Memory Function
In the Daily Californian, Glenn Roldan, Vice President for clinical operations at N2 Sleep Clinic, reiterates the importance of sleep to enhance memory function.
“Patients with sleep apnea suffer oxygen loss, which results in memory loss and daily headaches.” Although this particular study focused on research of the aging brain, eliminating sleep disturbances and getting adequate sleep is vital to a person of any age.
We Can Help
Want to learn more about to sleep apnea treatments?