Tips for Seniors: Seniors Need Sleep to Maximize Memory and Brain Function

Man napping in a hammockIt’s official! What we all have known for some time, the less sleep we have the less ability we have to remember things, react quickly or even retain a cheery disposition. Memory loss, due to lack of sleep, is especially prevalent in Senior Citizens.

Research funded in a study at the University of California, Berkeley, by the National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health, have concluded that the connection between lack of sleep, or poor sleep and memory loss, and/or brain deterioration, have been discovered.

Researchers learned that the slow brain waves associated with sleep are important in sending memories from the hippocampus, where our short-term memory is stored, to the prefrontal cortex, where the long-term memories are held.

Lack of sleep interrupts this transfer of information. Sleep deprivation, sleep deterioration, or interrupted sleep habits in old age, may be responsible for forgetfulness and memory loss in elders.

Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in Psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of this latest study said, “In older adults, the results showed a clear link between the degree of brain deterioration in the middle frontal lobe and the severity of impaired “slow wave activity” during sleep.”

To enhance your ability to ‘remember’ and just feel better, make sure that you get seven hours of sleep each 24 hour cycle, at least six hours during the night. Naps are helpful. “Sleep is needed to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage and make room for new information”, said Walker, an assistant psychology professor, at UC Berkeley.

Try these tips to get additional sleep into your schedule:

  • Make sure that your sleeping area is relaxing and conducive to sleeping with low to no light, comfortable bedding and pillows, and a quiet location.
  • Do not watch television before bed. You may choose instead soft soothing music that will end after you fall asleep. Meditate or take deep cleaning breaths after you lie down and focus on relaxation.
  • Keep your room a little cool for more comfortable sleeping.
  • Take a nap during the day when feeling tired. A 15 – 30 minute Siesta can rejuvenate you.
  • Certain medications may make stimulate you more than others. Check with your doctor regarding your medications and the timing of your usage.

Getting enough deep or REM sleep is important for memory and cognitive function at any age.