It has long been documented that there is correlation between memory and sleep, and recently it has also been established that there is cause and effect between lack of sleep and memory loss.
This finding is all the more important as diseases that affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s, are expected to cost the United States government $1 trillion by 2050 if the current trajectory of the disease continues. Unless the government intervenes to shift the current trend, Medicare is likely to be bankrupted by Alzheimer’s alone.
This is why it is important that on the patient level, there has to be some form of preventive measure that should be put in place. Diet, memory enhancement products, stress level, and sleep are going to form the building blocks of those preventive measures which will hopefully reverse the future trend in cognitive decline among the elderly.
With this finding, it is becoming clearer that for sharper memory and better learning ability, individuals need to achieve the recommended seven to eight hours of restorative sleep. While sleep need not be an uninterrupted eight-hour period, it is important that the person wakes up feeling invigorated instead of fatigued.
Given today's multitude of distractions, however, it is more often challenging to clock in eight hours of sleep let alone wake up refreshed and ready to face the day. For most people who had to be at their desks by 9AM and stay there well until dinnertime, getting enough sleep is already a steep hill to climb. Because young adulthood and middle age are often the stage when careers start to bloom, it is becoming nearly impossible to achieve quality and quantity sleep especially if the situation is compounded by the challenges of raising kids and providing care for elderly parents. Among this age group, falling asleep without fuss becomes an elusive dream for most.
This is a huge concern for future health caregivers as new research suggests that quality and quantity sleep at this age is crucial in protecting individuals against age-related cognitive declines. This study, led by the Department of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, discovered that it is better to 'invest up front' in sleep at young adulthood and middle age rather than make up with 'sleep debt' after retirement if one intends to maintain their cognitive faculties at a time when the brain's ability naturally declines.
There are, of course, benefits to sleeping well in older age, and while it does not appear to directly affect the memory, it does decrease risk for cardiovascular diseases and reduces the severity of other age-related disorders. There is also some benefit to getting quality sleep as one gets more advanced in years, as another study showed that lack of quality sleep among older men puts them at higher risk for dementia.