Light sleep linked to memory loss in older adults
If you’re an older person who has trouble remembering people’s names, the date of your wedding anniversary or other formerly easy-to-remember tidbits, the problem may be linked to your sleep patterns. New research suggests that those who sleep light have more difficulty with memory than those who get a solid night’s sleep.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley say the slow brain waves during deep sleep help carry memories to a part of the brain that stores that information for a longer time. Lighter sleeping patterns in older adults block those memories from traveling to that long-term storeroom, causing them to vanish sooner. The good news is that those who try for a better sleep may see an improvement in their memory, scientists said.
“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,” said lead researcher Matthew Walker, professor of psychology and neuroscience, in a statement.
“When we are young, we have deep sleep that helps the brain store and retain new facts and information,” he said. “But as we get older, the quality of our sleep deteriorates and prevents those memories from being saved by the brain at night.”
Lighter sleep is common but not inevitable among senior citizens, experts say. People who struggle to get a good night’s sleep can talk with their doctor about conducting a sleep study to figure out what’s going on and to suggest treatment options. Some of the options might include stress reduction techniques, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake in the evening, avoiding naps, using earplugs in bed and more.
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