Senior Care: The Connection between insomnia and memory loss

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Recent studies have shown that there is a relationship between irregular sleep patterns and memory loss across all ages. More so, we see a correlation between sleep problems and progressive brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s or Dementia, as individuals age. With age, the effects of lack of sleep on cognitive functions exacerbate. According to Miller’s research on Health, older adults who have sleep issues, such as insomnia, have nearly a 30% increased risk of developing dementia.

A research study conducted by Iris Haimov shows that 9% of young adults between the ages of 20-30 complain of insomnia, while about 35-50% of adults over the age of 65 have the same complaint. Late-life insomnia may be one of the contributing effects to the decline in memory processing. As individuals age, there is a tendency to have an interruption in sleep patterns and face difficulties in falling and staying asleep. The National Sleep Foundation explains that seniors “experience a change in their circadian rhythm, essentially the 24-hour clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle.”

Sleep is an essential part of our living, and it plays a huge role in learning and memory. We spend a third of our lives sleeping. No one knows why it occurs or what exactly happens during sleep, but science has shown us that a lot of housekeeping occurs during this time. We can say sleep is restorative, particularly in the collection and organization of our thoughts. Sleep deprivation can affect a person’s memory.

Three processes occur in memory:

  1. Acquisition (learning)
  2. Consolidation (stability)
  3. Recall (accessibility)

Acquisition and recall take place when you’re conscious, while consolidation takes place when an individual is unconscious. Seniors need to have 6-8 hours of sleep, as this affects the process of consolidation. While it is hard to trace the roots of dementia, research studies have shown that individuals with irregular sleep patterns have a higher chance of getting dementia as they age.

According to Robert Havekes’ research, sleep deprivation affects a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which controls memory capabilities such us language, recalling an event, and some critical cognitive functions. When we are sleep deprived, the hippocampus in the brain shrinks, making it harder for us to process events subconsciously. Small reductions in sleep hours can affect the way we process things or recall events that took place while we were conscious.

We may not know the cure for dementia, but we can do our best to prevent dementia from occurring in seniors by ensuring that our seniors have a sleep schedule or routine. We’ve also found that seniors who observe a sleep routine have a higher life quality than those who don’t. While the relationship between insomnia and memory loss has not been fully fleshed out, we’re starting to see new studies, on the horizon, expanding on this hypothesis.

Here at GYC, we do our best to ensure that our seniors are getting the best care. We help our seniors engage in mind-stimulating activities and ensure that they are getting as much rest as they can. You can trust us to give your senior loved ones optimal care.



Works Cited

Robert Havekes. Sleep deprivation and memory loss (TEDxDenHelder).


Iris, Haimov. Association between memory impairment and insomnia among older adults.


US News & World Report. Aging, Sleep, and Memory Loss. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-12-20/aging-related-sleep-problems-and-memory-loss

Sleep Foundation. The Science of Sleep – How age affects your circadian rhythm. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-age-affects-your-circadian-rhythm

Korin, Miller. New Research Links Not Sleeping Well to Dementia. https://www.health.com/condition/sleep/sleep-problems-linked-to-dementia


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