Scientists have found a link between a poor quality “slow wave sleep” and memory loss in older adults.
The researchers at the University of California found deep slow wave sleep was not only restorative, but played a key role in moving memories from short term to long term memory.
On average they found the older participants (in their 70’s) had 75% lower quality of deep wave sleep than the younger ones (in their 20’s) and this correlated to lower memory scores on a word pair test.
Brain scans confirmed the deep sleep had helped shift memories from the short term storage in the hippocampus to the longer term prefrontal cortex
So when we don’t get this quality sleep, the short term memories tend to be overwritten by new memories resulting in what seems to be forgetfulness and trouble retaining new information.
These slow waves are apparently generated by the frontal lobes, which deteriorate in elderly people, affecting their sleep patterns.
An earlier German study on young adults was able to use electrical stimulation to enhance deep sleep and double overnight memory.
Can see the Science Daily article here:
Poor sleep in old age prevents the brain from storing memories