Having difficulty remembering things? There is a good chance that poor sleep may be interfering with your ability to store memories. Most of us know that cramming for a test or pulling an all-nighter is bad news, but now several recent studies have found that interrupted sleep hinders ours ability to consolidate memories and learn new things.
One study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that even when overall sleep time is sufficient, frequent interruptions during the night causes memory to suffer. The findings are particularly problematic for those who suffer from sleep-interrupting conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea.
Another study, completed at Penn State University, sought to understand the roots of memory impairment caused by sleep disruption. Specifically, this study looked at the role of adenosine in the hippocampus – the part of the brain associated with memory function. Dr. Ted Abel, the professor who led the study explains: “For a long time, researchers have known that sleep deprivation results in increased levels of adenosine in the brain, and has this effect from fruit flies to mice to humans. There is accumulating evidence that this adenosine is really the source of a number of the deficits and impact of sleep deprivation, including memory loss and attention deficits.”
If you are experiencing fuzzy memory, or other cognitive impairments, the research shows that it may be due to sleep disruption. Whether it’s a new skill you learned last week, information you have to learn for a test, or even remembering someone’s name, less sleep disruptions will help you to recall and remember.
If you have frequent sleep disruption, or an underlying disorder such as sleep apnea, be sure to consult a sleep physician.
And remember, a good night’s sleep will help you to remember!