Mind & Body

Can’t remember a thing? Your sleep is to blame


The terrifying link between your lack of sleep and memory loss.

Can’t remember the simplest of details – where you put your keys, wallet, phone? Not sleeping well? There’s a clinical link – as highlighted by classically sleep deprived new parents.

Statistically, they sleep for 4.5 hours, and 59% less than the recommended 8 hours in the first 12 months of having their newborn. The consequences? 44% have ‘completely forgot what they were saying’ mid-sentence; and 8% even forgot the name of their own baby’.

Along similar lines, one study found the degree of insomnia – e.g. how sleep deprived you are – explains 32% of all memory loss. As you probably assume, worse insomnia = worse memory.

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If your sleeping issues become chronic, the memory loss may be so severe that you exhibit signs of alzheimer’s disease (AD): a 40 year longitudinal study found that those with disturbed sleep had a 51% greater likelihood of developing AD.

Another study found individuals with fragmented sleep were 1.5 times more likely to develop AD. However, the pattern is cyclical: evidence shows 40% of those with AD also report insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Whether it’s causative or a consequential factor, the conditions are inextricably linked.

One of the main reasons this happens – both for chronic and acute memory impairment? Accumulation of beta amyloid (aB), a neurotoxin to cause memory loss. Slow wave sleep is required for it’s detoxification.

On the other hand, insufficient slow wave sleep can lead to it’s accumulation: studies show just one night of inadequate sleep increases aB levels by 5% – let alone weeks, months or even years of sleep loss.

As you can see, this is a vicious cycle – thus the aggressive pathogenesis of the AD, memory loss and impaired sleep alike.

If you’re scared, don’t be – just adopt my signature bedtime routine so you are sleeping better, and avoiding memory loss, from tonight.