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Poor Sleep Prevents Brain From Storing Memories 180

jjp9999 writes "Recent findings published on Jan. 27 in the journal Nature Neuroscience may inspire you to get some proper sleep. Researchers at UC Berkeley found that REM sleep plays a key role in moving short term memories from the hippocampus (where short-term memories are stored) to the prefrontal cortex (where long-term memories are stored), and that degeneration of the frontal lobe as we grow older may play a key role in forgetfulness. 'What we have discovered is a dysfunctional pathway that helps explain the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss as we get older – and with that, a potentially new treatment avenue,' said UC Berkeley sleep researcher Matthew Walker."
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Poor Sleep Prevents Brain From Storing Memories

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  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @07:55AM (#42714089)
    The interesting part in the berkeley link is the possibilty for "electrical intervention":
    For example, in an earlier study, neuroscientists in Germany successfully used electrical stimulation of the brain in young adults to enhance deep sleep and doubled their overnight memory.

    So what kind of voltage, current, and signal sequence would you use for this?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @07:58AM (#42714099)

    So this means our brains use a stop-the-world type of generational garbage collector?

    What was I talking about again?

  • by saibot834 ( 1061528 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @07:59AM (#42714103)

    As a student, a large part of my work involves remembering. I have found that I need 8 hours of sleep – if I sleep less than that, I'm useless all day: I have trouble concentrating and usually don't get any studying done.

    Others however, seem to be off fine sleeping only 3 or 4 hours a day. Sure, they are tired, but it doesn't impact their ability to concentrate in the same way. Any biologist / neuroscientists here who can explain this?

  • by dalutong ( 260603 ) < minus city> on Monday January 28, 2013 @08:21AM (#42714171)

    I like to follow these types of stories. I lost all of my memory one morning when I was 19. The cause isn't clear. I was in an underdeveloped country at the time, so the medical facilities didn't exist to determine what had happened. (It might have been a delayed effect of a car accident I was in two years earlier.) It's also probably important to note that my ability to form new memories was also severely impeded.

    I wonder a little bit about what "moving" a memory means. At least in my amateur study, memories aren't complete entities (like a file, database, etc). They are mixes of memories, the awareness of what has occurred, and associations, our integration of what we already know with what we are remembering. That's part of the reason people can have such differing memories of a shared experience. Some of that is about how memories are retrieved. In my study and experience, they are retrieved by these associations we make. That's why memory tricks involve making varied associations -- to song, to a mental or physical image, etc. For people who haven't learned those tricks, an association can be as simple as "I remember we met in a bar..." then the rest of the picture is pieced together.

    I wonder sometimes if my having to learn different ways of "remembering" things will allow me to maintain a higher level of memory functioning into my elder years. I have to be very aware and purposeful about what I remember. I was in college when I lost my memory, so I had to learn very quickly how to perform in school without being able to learn in the conventional sense (I could not remember the beginning of a semester by the time it ended). So I focused much more on the integration of memories into my existing awareness (aka forming associations between new experiences and prior knowledge.) I still have a very poor memory retrieval in the classic sense, but I can still learn lessons well. It has just required a much higher level of sentience with regards to how memories are stored and what I hope to gain from a memory in the long term.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @08:21AM (#42714173) Homepage
    See a sleep specialist. If you don't sleep well, there's probably a reason. For many overweight people, the problem is sleep apnea, caused by the airway being obstructed, which the body reacts to by waking up. A different sleeping position, a device worn over the mouth and nose to help keep the airway open, and/or losing weight can help. (I know about this from a friend who suffers from this problem, but isn't willing to do anything about it. And not coincidentally has been suffering from increasing Can't Remember Shit Syndrome.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @08:30AM (#42714193)

    Some people can enter REM faster than others.
    Here's the crazy [].

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @08:38AM (#42714223) Homepage

    If he has sleep apnea, it can lead to a marked increase in his risk for heart attacks. With severe sleep apnea, your body senses your blood O2 saturation dropping and wakes you up in a panic thinking you're dying (seriously). That sort of 'night of 1000 deaths' leads to high cortisol levels and all sorts of other nasty things. I assume you probably already have, but urge him to at least have a sleep study done - that may show him that a simple CPAP machine can return his sleep patterns to normal. It quite literally saved my life.

  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @09:09AM (#42714341)

    Which is stupid. I myself have got sleap apnea and the first time I tried that CPAP device was the first time in years I felt actually rested in the morning. The difference in life quality is enormous - it was like I was a zombie before and now alive again. That feeling alive has helped me to pick up sports and to lose over 50 kg, the only thing I regret is not starting the therapy earlier.

  • by realsilly ( 186931 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @09:54AM (#42714559)

    .... sleep loss which then results in poor memory retention.

    I was in a marriage with a man I absolutely loved with all my heart and soul and I thought he was a good guy, but he just up and quit the marriage, leaving with no real explanation as to what happened. Naturally, I slipped into deep stress and depression, I found myself lying awake every night for hours and hours only to get about 2 to 3 hours of restless sleep a night. I've been doing this for over a year now and each night I struggle to find restful sleep.

    I try, but it still eludes me. Exercise to the point of exhaustion only barely helps. Sleep aids don't even phase me. Alcohol does virtually nothing, and frankly I've avoided it due to migraines that it can cause.

    I believe that happiness is the best thing for sleep and a good memory. Because most happy people aren't usually depressed and less stressed out.

  • by jedimark ( 794802 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @10:12AM (#42714681) Homepage

    I found it's a good thing to scare the crap out of them with an overnight oximetry reading. Cheap data recording oximeters are dirt cheap on ebay, and a good gift/loan for someone worth caring about.

    Does wonders for the die hard denialists seeing the blood oxygen saturation drop to near death levels multiple times throughout the night.

    Even more hilarious is showing people a cam recording of them stopping breathing while they sleep, with all the gory choking sounds.

    Usually after seeing or hearing all that, they are off to the doc to book a sleep test.

  • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <> on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:39PM (#42716217) Journal
    Sometimes it's the other way around. When you experience oxygen starvation during sleep, you wake up in a panic and your bloodstream floods with cortisol. One of the things cortisol does is increase your appetite. In an indirect way, sleep apnea can be a contributing factor to obesity (or weight gain in general). I know when it became a problem for me about 7 years ago, my weight shot up 50lb in less than 6mo. My apnea was caused by environmental conditions, which I solved by moving to a new place. I still have 1 or 2 episodes per night, I've stopped gaining, but I'm not losing the weight, either. I've tried diet, exercise, both at the same time, for months on-end, and at most I'll lose 1lb in that time. Some weeks I'm actually able to sleep through the night consistently; I'll lose 5-10lb in one of those weeks, but it'll come right back a week later when the apnea kicks up again.

    I do control my portion sizes, I rarely finish a meal (I almost always have leftovers in the fridge), I take care to eat a balanced diet and limit my intake of fatty foods (no cakes or fried bread products, 1 or 2 small pieces of candy every few days, I'll have a steak maybe once every couple of weeks so I don't start missing *actually* eating), I walk to work, I walk to lunch; hell, I'm in downtown Walnut Creek, I walk pretty much everywhere, and I live at the top of a 1000ft 45 degree incline. The problem is not dietary and it's not lack of exercise. Like I said, I start shedding weight fast when I'm able to sleep

    My apnea "isn't severe enough to warrant treatment", so no CPAP or dental appliance for me, either. I'm only 180, so overweight but not obese, but I'd really like to get back down to the 132 I was at for 12 years before this problem came along.

    Oh well, I guess if I wasn't such a lardass, I could sleep at night, right? Ignorant dick.

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