Sleep plays a critical role in both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, millions of people do not get enough sleep. Short-term, sleep deprivation can cause mild symptoms like daytime drowsiness, decreased performance, forgetfulness, and distractibility. However, chronic sleep loss can have more serious repercussions, including permanent memory and cognitive impairment. Learn how sleep affects memory, and how getting more shut-eye could reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and need of moving to the assisted living facilities.
Aging and Memory Loss: What’s Normal?
Many seniors complain of forgetfulness as they age. You may forget the telephone number of a friend or relative, or you may come to a blank when trying to recall the ingredients in your favorite recipe. While these types of memory lapses can be frustrating, they are usually not a cause for concern. Normal age-related memory loss is caused by a number of factors, including the deterioration of the hippocampus, the region of brain responsible for memory storage, as well as changes in hormones and blood flow to the brain.
If memory loss progresses past normal age-related memory loss, dementia may be to blame. Dementias like Alzheimer’s disease are generally caused by degeneration of the cerebral cortex, the region of brain responsible for actions, thoughts, memories, and personality. One of the biggest differences between normal age-related memory loss and dementia is that dementia is disabling. When memory loss becomes severe, it can cause a significant disruption of work, social activities, relationships, and other parts of daily life. You should check yourself or your loved one if you suspect serious memory problems on the most common dementia behaviors.
Sleep and How It Effects Memory Loss
Studies has shown that lack of sleep can pose serious consequences to one’s health and mental state. According to research conducted by UC Berkeley scientists, poor sleep has been linked to a toxic buildup of beta-amyloid, a protein that is thought to be a main suspect in the development of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing this, seniors can undergo treatments or engage in lifestyle changes to obtain the recommended hours of sleep, which in turn can prevent or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Poor sleep habits can occur abruptly, often due to a traumatic life experience or change in environment, or can develop over a lifetime. Good sleep is a key to memory loss prevention. There are a number of things seniors can do to improve their sleep, such as engage in daytime activities, exercise regularly, and limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. It’s also important to maintain a regular bedtime routine and consistent sleep schedule. If you’re concerned about your memory loss, consult with your physician.