Many scientists have, in recent years, uncovered a possible link between sleep and senior memory impairment. The neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley published their findings in Nature Neuroscience, revealing that age-related deterioration of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain was connected to one’s failure to achieve the kind of deep sleep that helps the brain consolidate memories and information in the elderly.
Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley explained that, when we are young, deep sleep helps the brain store and retain information. However, as we age, this ability deteriorates along with the quality of our sleep, preventing memories from being stored by the brain at night. While this sounds like a hopeless case, this research does actually point toward new treatment angles for age-related memory impairment. Some scientists are already beginning to design studies to further investigate whether or not enhancing the quality of sleep in elderly individuals can improve their memory retention at night.
Lessened sleep quality is not the only factor that presents a threat to memory functions of the elderly. The National Institutes of Health reported that senior adults are also more likely to experience disruptions in sleep, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, which can also impair cognition. This is even more common in those who suffer from movement disorders like restless leg syndrome, which can keep a person from getting a good night’s rest.
While there is ultimately no cause-and-effect relationship between Alzheimer’s and sleep deprivation, it is clear that it at least plays a factor in the development of such problems. As such, treating sleep disorders early on might help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.
Westchester County Rehabilitation Center
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