Sleep Can Preserve Memories

Most of us know about the dangers of not getting enough shut eye; obesity, heart disease and diabetes to name a few. But now researchers in California have found that poor sleep wreaks havoc with your memory, too.

A good night’s rest, considered anything from six to nine hours a night, protects old memories and reinforces new ones, according to the study published this month in the journal eLife.

Researchers used computational models capable of simulating different brain states, such as sleep and awake, to examine how sleep consolidates newly encoded memories and prevents damage to old memories. Essentially; without enough shut eye, the new memories can “erase” the old ones.

“The brain is very busy when we sleep, repeating what we have learned during the day. Sleep helps reorganize memories and presents them in the most efficient way. Our findings suggest that memories are dynamic, not static. In other words, memories, even old memories, are not final. Sleep constantly updates them,” said Maksim Bazhenov, PhD, lead author of the study and professor of medicine at UC San Diego. “We predict that during the sleep cycle, both old and new memories are spontaneously replayed, which prevents forgetting and increases recall performance.”

For example, imagine learning how to navigate to a parking lot by going left at one stop sign and right at one traffic light. The next day, you have to learn how to get to a different parking lot using different directions. Bazhenov said sleep consolidates those memories to allow recollection of both.

Again, sleep is useful for so many things, but if you want to remember them; then you should try to get a good nights sleep!


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