Sleep deprivation can cause the brain to act in a way that is commonly connected to the aging process, even if the person who is deprived of sleep is young. Because of this, it is now believed by many scientists and health care professionals that both sleep and memory are intricately connected together.
How Sleep Is Connected To Memory
Recent studies have indicated that the neural connections in your brain may be altered as you sleep. Experts believe that this is one of the reasons why young people need more sleep than adults. These same studies have indicated that certain areas of your memory may be effected by a loss of sleep.
It is not the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that is more important, but rather, it appear that it is the deep sleep that is connected to your memory. Three steps have been developed in the connection of memory to sleep, and these are consolidation, stabilization, and re-consolidation. For your memories to be stabilized, this research has shown that a period of six hours must pass. For many years, scientists and doctors have debated about why humans sleep. As of this, time the debate is ongoing, and no concrete theories have been produced. One thing which is certain is that young people and animals need more sleep than adults.
The reason for this is because a large number of neural connections are made in the brain during this time. In one study two groups of cats were taken and tested. One group of cats were allowed to sleep for a few hours, while the other group of cats where kept awake. The results indicated that the cats which were allowed to sleep a larger number of neural connections than the cats which were kept awake. In addition to this, it is a well established fact that both humans and other species which don’t get good amounts of rest do not do well on certain tasks.
Because of the connection between sleep and memory, it is only logical that the ability to learn would be effected as well. Research has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep will have contextual memory issues. One thing that many sleep deprived people do to improve their memory is drink excessive amounts of caffeine. While this can slightly improve their memory, it is still not as good as people who are get the recommended amount of sleep. People who are sleep deprived also have a tendency to feel that they are correct about certain things, when in reality they are often wrong.
People who do not get enough sleep tend to perform poorly on math related tasks. The evidence shows that the activity of the prefrontal cortex is greatly reduced. A similar pattern has been seen in tasks which required people to perform verbal tasks. Overall, it appears that a lack of sleep will lead to a number of problems, and it can have an adverse effect on your memory. What is most interesting about this phenomenon is that the memory effects of sleep deprivation are similar to effects which are found in people who are aging. In addition to this, it is also apparent that a lack of sleep can make age related diseases even worse.
The question that researchers are trying to currently answer is whether or not sleep allows humans to consolidate their thoughts and memories. Currently, it appears that the process of sleep is responsible for taking memories and placing them into the long term storage of the brain. The primary argument among researchers is which stage of sleep is responsible for the storage of memory. While some say that it is the deep sleep which is most important, other believe that it is REM sleep which has the biggest effect on your memory. It is likely that both REM and deep sleep are responsible for certain aspects of memory.
While the connection of sleep and memory is well established, it still doesn’t answer the question of why we sleep. Common sense would dictate that we sleep in order to allow our bodies to rest, but this may only be part of the puzzle. However, being able to get optimal amounts of rest will lead to you being able to make the best of your memory.