Insomnia and Memory Loss


Every living thing needs sleep. If it breathes, it needs sleep to rejuvenate. During sleep the brain converts the days memories from temporary to long term making memory recall possible.

Without sleep the brain, does not process information correctly. It is during the deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, that the brain processes the events of the day, fixing the memories in place. The days events are moved from the receiver of information, the hippocampus to the recorder of information, the prefrontal cortex.


Without this transfer of information, long term memories are not created. Brain trauma, diseases and aging can reduce or eliminate this ability. A frequent cause of memory loss is sleep deprivation. There are a number of reasons for sleep interruption such as sleep apnea, poor diet, lack of exercise, illness and depression.

The good news is once the root cause of sleep deprivation is remedied, a person’s short and long term memory abilities can be restored.

Why is sleep important?

During deep sleep, signals or brain waves, are sent from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex. The days experiences or events, are temporarily stored in the hippocampus. If they are not moved to the prefrontal cortex, those memories fade away.

When they are processed by the prefrontal cortex, it is like hitting the save button on your computer. Without it, everything is temporary and lost. Interrupted sleep patterns not only cause significant memory loss, but it can also result in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.

What Causes Memory Loss?

Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss often go hand in hand. Sleep interruption can be caused by aging, disease, head trauma and irregular sleep patterns. As people age, the prefrontal cortex may start to deteriorate, compromising the brains ability to fully record the events.

Head trauma, especially to the prefrontal cortex, can damage or impair the ability to receive the brain wave activity. Sleep apnea is one of the most common interruptions of sleep that can result in memory loss.

There are also some diseases such as cancers, dementia and mental illness that have an impact on the bodies ability to sleep. Poor diet, lack of exercise and restful sleep have been linked to Short term memory loss. For many people, memory loss causes a feeling of confusion and disorientation.

What is the connection between Sleep Apnea, Insomnia and Memory Loss?

Sleep Apnea is described as a breathing disorder that causes a person to temporarily stop breathing while they sleep. These episodes can last from a few seconds, to a few minutes. During that time, high levels of carbon dioxide can build up in the blood stream.

As a result, the body reacts to the signal by waking the person, causing them to take a deep restorative breath, and then falling back to sleep. These may occur infrequently or up to 30 times in a one hour time span.

Because the body wakes often, it is unable to fall into the deep REM sleep required to produce the brain waves that transfer the memories from the hippocampus to the cortex. As a direct result, both short term and long term memories can be impacted.

What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can be caused by a number of different things. An obstructed or narrow airway can become even more narrow when a person lays down for a night of rest. The throat closes, breathing stops, and the body reacts accordingly.

When the body sleeps, muscle tone relaxes, and the collapsible tissue in the throat relaxes too much, closing off the airway. People who are overweight, smoke or are elderly, are more susceptible to sleep apnea than others. Severe and long term sleep apnea, can not only cause memory loss, but brain damage.

Is there a way to correct memory loss caused by sleep deprivation?

Yes. For people experiencing interrupted sleep caused by sleep apnea it is recommended they participate in a sleep study. During the study the number of interruptions will be recorded, as well as how deeply a person sleeps. For some, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is the answer.

Worn over the nose, the machine increases the air pressure in the throat, preventing it from collapsing. As a result, the airway stays open, and sleep is not interrupted.

In order to keep up with busy schedules and fast paced events, many adults do not get enough sleep. Doctors suggest the average adult needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night. Many people barely get 6 hours, and a significant number of people get even less.

Without the proper amount of sleep the body and mind suffers. Memory loss is often blamed on a schedule that is too busy, and it may be part of the reason. However, one of the major factors behind memory loss is lack of proper sleep.

In order to get the proper rest, many people need to make sleep a priority. As important as the daily life events, regular sleep can directly impact a persons quality of life. Creating regular sleep habits by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day are a start.

Avoid too much caffeine and exercise at least 3 hours before going to bed. Create a sleeping environment that is restful, turn off the television. Life is important, so is sleep. If you want to remember your life, sleep on it.

A Word On Dreams

I’m adding a note on dreams and the importance of dreaming to each article on this site. Why? Because it was a terrible oversight not to recognize this critical aspect of sleep which is often damaged by insomnia. Dreams allow you to put the jigsaw of your life together and make sense of the insanity of the world while you sleep. Dreams relieve the subconscious stress and tension that build up in your day to day lives. It’s a new section on the site which I think will grow rapidly – have a look at our first article on this important matter.



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