Memory Erased by Disrupted Sleep?

Sleep is very important to the human body.  Just take a look at someone with a  new baby who is sleep deprived.  There is a reason why they used sleep deprivation as a torture device.  Our bodies not only need an ample amount of sleep everyday but we crave sleep.

Without sleep we tend to forget things and our motor skills decrease as does our reaction time.  We tend to not be able to function properly on any level.   So what is it about sleep that is so vital to our survival?

Well, one suggestion might be that fragmented sleep harms our memory?  Why is this so important?  Without memory we would not be able to do anything.  Although we might not realize it, we even store information (memory) on the simple task of tying our shoes.

In  a previous blog , we cited a study that suggested sleep deprivation can even prevent the brain from accurately reading facial expressions.

An article in BBC Health comments on a Stanford University study that analyzed the effects of disrupted sleep in mice.

They found that this disruption made it harder for mice to recognize familiar objects.  An interesting fact about the study is that it looked at sleep that was fragmented, but not shorter or less intense than normal for the mice.

Researchers studied a group of brain cells that play a key function in switching between states of being asleep and being awake.  They sent light pulses into the brains of mice while they slept.  Therefore, they could disrupt their deep sleep patterns without affecting total sleep time or the quality or composition of sleep.

We conclude that regardless of the total amount of sleep or sleep intensity, a minimal unit of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for memory consolidation.”

Head researcher, Dr Luis de Lecea, said “Sleep continuity is one of the main factors affected in various pathological conditions that impact memory, including Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive deficits.”

The researchers went on to add, “We conclude that regardless of the total amount of sleep or sleep intensity, a minimal unit of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for memory consolidation.”

Independent sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley affirmed that there was evidence that people with sleep apnoea had particular problems “locking down” memories.  This is because, ‘at some point we have to sort through what’s happened during the day.  That process occurs in deep sleep.  So anything that affects sleep will have an effect on that process to a greater or lesser extent.’

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