Latest News » Study links sleep deprivation among the elderly to memory loss

Sleeping difficulties may affect your memory.

Sleeping disorders and memory loss are two conditions that are relatively commonplace among older individuals. However, while past research has revealed the negative impact of sleep deprivation on brain health, it is only recently that scientists have unearthed a direct connection between loss of sleep and memory-related impairment.

According to a press release published by ScienceDaily, a team of neuroscientists from the University of California – Berkeley enlisted 18 young adults and 15 senior citizens. All of the participants were reportedly taught a list of words – which they were then tested on – before going to sleep. When they awoke, they were subjected to the same examination while a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine conducted brain scans. The scientists also monitored the brain waves of the individuals as they slept.

Based on the data collected, the researchers determined that the older participants with greater signs of impaired brain health did not reach the same deep sleep as younger individuals. This, the scientists speculated, could be why the words that the senior citizens learned before sleeping did not transfer to their long-term memory, resulting in lower scores on their morning exams. 

“As we get older, the quality of our sleep deteriorates and prevents those memories from being saved by the brain at night,” explains UC Berkeley associate professor and sleep researcher Matthew Walker. “[W]e have discovered […] 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.”

Memory-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are a major concern among senior citizens today, as well as other generations who are now approaching old age. While no cure has yet to be found for these afflictions, research has shown that certain compounds, including curcumin supplements, may help address their symptoms, and potentially delay their onset.

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