Updated at: 31-12-2021 - By: Jane Brody

For more than a century, scientists and academics have examined the link between memory and sleep. Consolidation of memories occurs throughout both the non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement stages of your sleep, according to the current scientific agreement.

Insufficient and excessive sleep may impair memory and other cognitive functions, according to new research. It’s important to obtain a good night’s sleep since it not only improves our physical health but also allows our minds to function optimally.

How Are Memory and Sleep Connected?

There is a complicated link between sleep and memory. After learning something new, getting enough sleep is essential for processing that knowledge and storing it in your brain as memories.

There are four main phases to the sleep cycle of an adult in good health. Two stages of light NREM sleep are followed by deep (or “slow-wave”) NREM sleep, which is the third stage. Prepare your brain for the next day’s learning by completing these three processes. Sleep deprivation might reduce your ability to learn by as much as 40%.

It is during these non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stages that the brain organizes and eliminates information from a day’s worth of memories. As the NREM sleep cycle progresses into REM sleep, the selected memories become more concrete. When you’re in the REM stage, your brain is also processing emotional memories, which might help you deal with stressful times.

In REM sleep, the vast majority of dreaming happens. For example, your five senses are sent to and processed by the cerebral cortex, which is a tiny layer of the cerebrum responsible for processing and interpreting memories. It is during REM sleep when the thalamus begins to send information to the brain’s cerebral cortex, that your dreams begin to take shape.

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How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Brain Function and Memory?

Insufficient sleep can lead to sleep deprivation, which can be harmful to a person’s health. One of the most typical symptoms is a lack of recall. As a result of the lack of sleep, the brain is unable to make new connections for the information it has lately acquired. Some other possible cognitive effects include difficulty concentrating, a decrease in decision-making abilities, and a decrease in emotional and behavioral control.

Age is a major factor in how much sleep you need each night. After a good night’s rest, both adults and children have higher memory consolidation. Oversleeping, on the other hand, has been linked to memory problems. It’s important for everyone to get the recommended amount of sleep each night because getting too little or too much sleep might have detrimental effects.

Based on your age, we’ve come up with the following guidelines for how much sleep you should get each night:

Age GroupAge RangeRecommended Amount of Sleep per Day
Newborn0-3 months14-17 hours
Infant4-11 months12-15 hours
Toddler1-2 years11-14 hours
Preschool3-5 years10-13 hours
School-age6-13 years9-11 hours
Teen14-17 years8-10 hours
Young Adult18-25 years7-9 hours
Adult26-64 years7-9 hours
Older Adult65 years or older7-8 hours

In certain research, the quality of one’s sleep declines with age. Slow-wave sleep is a factor. The medial prefrontal cortex is where slow waves are generated in the brain. A person’s medial prefrontal cortex degenerates with age, which results in less slow-wave sleep and a more difficult time processing memories throughout a regular sleep cycle.

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Sleep Apnea and Memory Loss

Some sleep disorders have been linked to memory issues because sleep is so critical to the development and consolidation of memories. Daytime cognitive impairments, such as memory loss, can be caused by insomnia, a persistent problem in beginning or maintaining sleep. Memory lapses can be caused by sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, which produce excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep apnea, a disease that can cause memory loss, maybe a contributing factor. People with sleep apnea experience choking or gasping for air as a result of their airway becoming temporarily blocked while they sleep. Other typical signs of sleep apnea include heavy snoring and extreme daytime tiredness.

A physical obstruction to the airway affects the sleep of over 900 million people around the world, making OSA one of the most common sleep disorders. Chronic depression and OSA have long been connected. People with depression sometimes have a hard difficulty remembering their own personal experiences, especially those that are autobiographical. Memory consolidation has also been shown to be challenging for those with OSA.

Memory processing was examined as a possible link between OSA and depression in one study. The study found that people with OSA had a worse time remembering specific details from their own personal history than those in the control group. This isn’t surprising, given that OSA disrupts the sleep cycle by causing sleep fragmentation, which is necessary for the appropriate consolidation of semantic memories. It’s interesting to note that OSA had no effect on the consolidation of episodic memories, which are memories of specific events or occasions.

Memory consolidation is disrupted in those who have sleep apnea, making it difficult for them to recall specific experiences from their past. Research is needed to determine if OSA causes both depression and memory impairments, or if OSA and depression disrupt memory consolidation separately.

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