How does sleep affect our memory?
Have you ever wondered why sometimes you can’t remember little things like where you parked the car or if you switched the iron off? Well, a new study published by ‘Science Magazine’ last week has found that small, unnecessary information is lost when we sleep.
The authors of the study claim that forgetting little things is due to the activation of the melatonin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons. Melatonin affects our sleep and this is the period in the day when MCH cleans our memory of what our brain perceives as ‘irrelevant clutter’.
There’s a reason this is happening; in order for us to remember what’s important, our mind needs to forget what isn’t.
We conducted a survey of 2,108 respondents… here are just some of Britain’s most common memory fails:
- 50% have to double check whether they have done something
- 35% forget what they have just said when talking to someone
- 44% forget to do something they had intended to do (for example, to post a letter, take medication or call at the shops on the way home)
Silentnight’s sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, said: “With more than a quarter of Brits sleeping for less than five hours a night, it is no wonder that this lack of sleep is having an effect on our memory”.
Sleep and memory has a complex relationship – The phrase ‘sleep on it’ does hold some meaning; a study by The University of California found that after learning, sleep is also essential to save and cement new information into the brain, making it less likely to forget.
Whilst this can be confusing, it does seem to have some logic behind it. Our brains are subconsciously filtering what is important for our memory, and what isn’t.
Research by the Harvard Medical School discovered that 75 per cent of adults struggle with memory-related problems. So if you’ve ever walked into a room then forgotten what you came in for or had your mind go blank when asked simple information, you are certainly not alone.
Tips on improving memory.
- Aim to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night
- Power naps are a great way to boost brain power. Dr Nerina recommends 10-20 minutes for the most effective nap
- Cut down on caffeine or alcohol intake for a clearer, more alert mind when waking
To see more of Dr Nerina’s sleep tips, click here.
It is a complex relationship between memory and sleep, making it an ever evolving subject, with differing opinions and discoveries.
What are your thoughts, have you personally forgotten simple things or ‘irrelevant clutter’? Let us know on our social pages.