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Study finds link between poor sleep, memory storage

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 08 2013 04:21:06 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 08 2013 04:43:41 PM CST

It turns out your mother may have been right. The importance of a good night's sleep can never be overstated.

It turns out your mother may have been right.  The importance of a good night's sleep can never be overstated. 

For the first time, scientists have found a link between sleep deprivation, brain degeneration and memory loss as we grow older. 

The study, done by University of California, Berkeley scientists, found a connection between poor sleep and memory storage.  Dr. William Pistone, of the St. Luke's Sleep Disorder Center, said it boils down to a difference in the quality of sleep we get as we grow older.

"Older people do not sleep well," he said.  "As we age the amount and the stages of our sleep do change, so older people do not get as restorative sleep as younger people."

The research shows that deep, restorative sleep plays a key role in transporting memories into our brain's "hard drive."

"If you have any problems with that you really can't remember things well, especially short term memory," shared Pistone.  "That's a big problem."

That translates into forgetfulness like questioning where you left your keys or difficulty remembering someone's name.

"There have been studies that show that if you don't have enough REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, that you're not able to properly lay down memories, you can't really access it, you can't really process it," added Pistone.

The study found deterioration in the brains of elderly people is linked to their failure to generate deep sleep.  But Pistone said poor sleep at any age can impair your ability to remember.

"You can have difficulty processing with as little as one night sleep deprivation," Pistone said.

The findings offer hope about the possibility of finding new ways to treat memory loss by targeting sleep and brain waves.