Anyone who has suffered from a fitful night of tossing and turning can testify that their mind simply isn’t as sharp as usual the next day. For most, though, this issue can be resolved by nodding off a bit earlier the following night. However, people with more long-term sleep issues may see a greater decline in their mental faculties, according to a new study from the University of California – Berkeley.
“When we are young, we have deep sleep that helps the brain store and retain new facts and information,” said Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, in a university press release.
Walker and a group of neuroscientists from UC Berkeley reportedly observed the brain patterns of college-age participants and elderly individuals as they slept. Prior to going to bed, both groups learned a word set. They all took a test on what they’d been taught before and after laying down for the night.
Upon reviewing the brain waves of the participants in the night, as well as scans that were taken while they took memory-based tests the next day, the neuroscientists were essentially able to observe where the recollections had been stored, and how the participants’ night-time neural activity may have affected that process.
In general, the older participants displayed lower levels of memory retention from one day to the next, with their scans revealing that the information, for the most part, had not transferred to the part of the brain that manages long-term recollection.
“As we get older, the quality of our sleep deteriorates and prevents those memories from being saved by the brain at night,” Walker concluded.
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