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Brain Aging, Sleep and Memory Decline

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View of a retired senior woman sleeping in bedThe New York Times recently ran an article explaining a possible link between aging, memory decline and sleep. It’s very well known that as we age, our memory declines. A new report,  posted by the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality. This means that as we age, our quality of sleep declines. This lack of sleep may impact the ability to store memories in the long term.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that helps sustain quality of sleep. This section of the brain tends to lose volume with age. The prefrontal cortex is also crucial to consolidating to new memories. The findings suggest that one way to slow memory decline in aging adults is to improve sleep.

While it’s impossible to turn back time, doctors are doing experiments with electrical stimulation that may lead to ways to improve sleep in older people. The study participants that have benefited from improved sleep are also demonstrating improved memory.

For the rest of us, there are some easy ways to improve sleep at any age. One of those is to exercise. You can also cut out caffeine and power down electronics an hour before bedtime. Other tips for better sleep include sticking to a schedule, managing stress and limiting daytime naps.

Written by Bethany Village

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