Lack Of Quality Sleep Linked To Reduced Memory In Older Adults

According to neuroscientists, sleep has an impact on both qualitative and quantitative changes in memory. If you break down memory in three parts, you’ll get acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition and recall of memory happen while you are awake. However, memory consolidation occurs when you are awake as well as when you are asleep.

Memory consolidation is the process which stores memories as long-term ones. It also updates learning. Compromising on sleep leads to an adverse effect on memory consolidation. In this regard, a new report discusses how reduced duration and quality of sleep can reduce memory among older adults.

What Did This Study Reveal?

A new study has found that a decrease in the quality of sleep can have a negative impact on the memory of older adults. This research also explored how the sleep patterns linked to poor memory are different in younger and older African Americans.

The Georgia Institute of Technology conducted this pilot study. The aim was to look at the association between poor sleep and aging-related memory decline. Note that the connection between sleep quality and memory is pre-established. This particular study dives deeper into this aspect. It looks at this link in older adults, and black participants regardless of their age. This is the first study to do so.

Published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal, 81 volunteers  from Atlanta participated in this study. Among these younger adults fell in the age bracket of 18 to 37. Meanwhile older adults were in the age range of 56 to 76. To separate those who had either mild cognitive impairment or other cofounding factors, participants had their memory performance evaluated. At the end of the day, 50 adults remained as participants.

For measurement of their sleep quality and duration, final participants wore accelerometers on their wrists for seven nights. They also took memory tests at the laboratory. These measured their electroencephalography brain wave activity while they tried to recall the word pairs shown to them earlier.

The study found that older adults who had better sleep performed better. Lower sleep quality caused poor memory, not just among older adults but among black younger participants as well. Race-related stress was the reasons behind this lack of sleep. Black adults slept 36 minutes less in comparison to others, which accounted for a 12% reduction in memory.

What Researchers Plan To Do Next

Researchers hope to carry out more research in this area. A bigger study with more participants could help study the link between memory and sleep quality among other minorities. This could help analyze the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in people.

“It’s been known for decades that important things are happening while you sleep with regard to memory consolidation and strengthening of memories. Because we knew that sleep quality typically declines in normal aging, this was a prime target for study,” said a lead of the study, Audrey Duarte.