REMember Me? Prevent Memory Loss with Deep Sleep

Photo of a man having trouble sleepingYou’ve likely lost count of the number of times you’ve turned your house upside down to look for your keys or your wallet. This happens naturally as we age. But a new survey reveals a surprise: young adults are more likely to forget small things than older adults.

Young adults pass up on sleep in favor of working longer hours, contributing to stress. Even when de-stressing, however, young adults cut in on their sleep hours to binge watch TV shows or go out for the night. The epidemic of chronic lack of sleep has been linked to memory loss.

REM or Rapid Eye Movement, the part of the sleep cycle when dreaming and memory back-ups take place, only happens after 90 minutes of deep sleep. Without enough time to reach the REM state, the brain doesn’t get the opportunity to store long-term memories of the day that night.

Staging a Sleep Intervention

If you are having a hard time reaching REM or deep sleep, consider adjusting both external and internal elements in your sleep environment.

Go around your room and get rid of any distractions. Place bright lamps and electronic devices out of sight or switch to black out curtains. Consider mattresses and pillows made from memory foam support for better back support. Try switching up your bedding, as well. Sheets made of bamboo or silk are softer and have the added benefit of being hypoallergenic. You can also invest in earplugs or white-noise machines if your partner snores.

Afternoon naps may help you when you’re tired during the day but bear in mind that they may keep you from sleeping on time every night. Cut down on any alcohol, caffeine or smoking habits and make time for daily exercise, even if it’s just walking. Pre-sleep rituals—soaking in the bath, drinking hot milk, or meditating—will help clear your mind before going to bed.

Sleep is not for the Weak

Studies have tied chronic sleep deprivation to higher chances of conditions like hypertension, heart problems, and obesity. Lack of sleep also affects mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. It can trigger worse episodes and lead to relapses. REM sleep and dreaming helps the mind process strong, emotional stimuli encountered during the day. It serves as an overnight therapy session, energy recharge, and memory back-up, all at the same time.

The quality and quantity of sleep you get are both important factors of memory building. Memory deterioration may be a fact of life, but there is no reason to rush it. Starting good sleep habits now will serve you and your memories well as you grow older.