Sleep, Memory, and the Brain

Dan commented on the contraindications of Namenda plus Aricept. Since many of us are on the both of these agents, would you mind giving all of us more information which you obtained during the study in which you participated. We’d all appreciate it, I’m sure.   Thanks, Dan.

If you read my post the other day about my sleep deprivation for several and how it affected my brain, the following article explains in detail the reasoning behind this.

Sleep, Memory, and the Brain

When you’re sleep deprived, cognition is one of the first functions to decline. Shortchange yourself on sleep by staying up late, continue this night after night, and you ultimately shortchange your memory. And if the problem is not resolved, your memory — and your brain — will not be functioning in the best way possible.

In this excerpt from our Johns Hopkins Memory Bulletin, neurologists Marilyn Albert, Ph.D. and Guy McKann, M.D. answer questions about sleep and how it affects the brain and memory.

Q.  How much sleep does an adult need each night?

A.  As people get older, a decrease begins in both the total time sleeping and the amount of time spent in the stage of sleep associated with dreaming. A newborn sleeps 16 hours per day. In contrast, the baby’s 30-year-old mother sleeps six hours per day (if she’s lucky), and only one quarter of this time, or two hours, is occupied by the deepest stage of sleep.

Starting in middle age (between 45 and 60), not only does the amount of sleep per night start to decrease, but also the character of sleep changes. People at these ages spend less time in the stage of sleep associated with dreaming and more time in the lighter stages.

As people get older, they are more likely to shift the time when they sleep, some going to bed and to sleep earlier and waking up earlier. Others are the opposite, staying up late into the night and sleeping much of the day. When people are in their 80s, these changes are even more pronounced. Their total time asleep per day may be only six or seven hours, including time spent in daytime naps. Even though a person may take several naps a day, the total time sleeping in naps is rarely over an hour. The idea that older individuals should sleep soundly for eight to 10 hours is clearly wrong.

As a rule of thumb, one hour of sleep is required for two hours of being awake. As we get older, that ratio becomes closer to 45 minutes of sleep to each two hours awake. In other words, throughout the day you gradually accumulate a “sleep debt.” By the end of a 16-hour day, a younger person owes the “sleep bank” eight hours. In contrast, an older person has a sleep debt of only about six hours. By the end of a week, you may have accumulated a sleep debt of eight to 10 hours.

Q.  What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

A.  If you don’t allot enough time for sleep, you become sleep deprived. Besides being sleepy during the daytime, sleep-deprived people often have problems with their thinking. They are slower to learn new things, they may have problems with memory, and their ability to make judgments may be faulty, enough so that they may think they are really starting to “lose it” when the problem is really not enough sleep.

Elderly people do not recover from sleep deprivation as quickly as younger people. In experimental situations where people are kept awake for 24 hours, those in their 70s take at least a day longer to recover from their subsequent daytime sleepiness than younger people. Gender may also make a difference in the time it takes to recover from sleep deprivation; women seem to be able to recover faster than men.

True or False

Spring onions and shallots are exactly the same.

False. Shallots, or scallions, differ from other onions in that instead of having a single bulb, it divides into a cluster of smaller bulbs.


Your Ideas Regarding a Brain Gift

I’ve added Dementia for 2 to my Blogroll.

Stephanie Grabreck wrote this controversial article on brain donors for research.

Brain tissue —More donors are urgently needed

More people need to donate their brains to medical research if cures for diseases like dementia are to be found, UK scientists say.

They say research is being hampered by a gross shortage of brains and are urging healthy people as well as those with brain disorders to become donors.

Brain research has proved essential for finding new treatments – such as dopamine for Parkinson’s disease.

Brain investigator Dr Payam Rezaie called the current situation “dire”.

He said thousands more brains were needed to look for the cause and treatments for conditions like autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Most drugs already developed for brain-related diseases have relied on research using human brains

Dr Rezaie, from the Neuropathology Research Laboratory at the Open University, said: “For autism, we only have maybe 15 or 20 brains that have been donated that we can do our research on. That is drastically awful.

“We would need at least 100 cases to get meaningful data. But that is just one example. A lot of research is being hindered by this restriction.”

Short supply — Professor James Ironside, of the Human Tissue Authority, which regulates the donation process, said as well as a shortage of diseased brains to study, there was a bigger problem of getting hold of healthy donor brains for comparison.

He said this was down to poor awareness rather than people being squeamish.


  • Discovery of L-dopa treatment for Parkinson’s disease
  • Discovery of amyloid deposition in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Discovery of Lewy bodies in dementia
  • Discovery of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Discovery of the role of glutamate in Schizophrenia

He helped set up a brain bank in Scotland to collect normal “control” brains from people who had died unexpectedly and needed an autopsy by law to establish the cause of death.

“We were surprised and pleased that over 90% of the relatives approached in this way gave consent.” He said more needed to be done to raise public awareness.

Dr Kieran Breen, of the Parkinson’s Disease Society, said over 90% of the brains in their bank at Imperial College London were from patients, with the remaining 10% of “healthy” brains donated by friends or relatives of patients.

“It is a question of awareness rather than anything else.”

But he said scandals like Alder Hey – where organs were kept without consent – have put some off donating their organs to medical research.

“There is also confusion. Some people are under the impression that if they sign up for a donor card that will include donating their brain for research. But it won’t.

Dr Lorna Wing, a retired expert who studied autism and helped change thinking about the condition as a spectrum disease rather than a single disorder, consented to donating the brain of her daughter, who had autism, after she died unexpectedly aged 49. “My husband and I still mourn her loss. One consolation for us is that we donated her brain and are donating ours in our wills.”

“Donor cards are about donating organs for transplant, not for medical science.”

He said anyone interested in becoming a donor should contact one of the 15-20 brain banks dotted around the UK.

The Medical Research Council is setting up a network to coordinate the existing brain banks from one central location. It is hoped this will make it simpler for those wanting to donate and for researchers to pool information and resources.

Dr Marie Janson, of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “Donated brains can be an immense help in the fight against dementia and are likely to become more important in the future.

“Most drugs already developed for brain-related diseases have relied on research using human brains.

“Unfortunately dementia research is still severely underfunded, and – if new treatments are not found – the number of people with dementia in the UK could increase from 700,000 to 1.5 million within a generation.”

Comment? Opinions? Questions?  Click here.

Oh yes. I’ve added a foreign language widget on the right side of the page. I’m finding there are more bilingual readers than I imagine.

Warmly………David Thomas

Do You Want to Be a Guest Blogger?

 Would You Like to Be a Guest Blogger?


I would like to add some guest posts to my blog. Even though this is a personal diary, I also believe in teaching and educating others as you have already noticed. It is important to get fresh new voices and ideas. People love really useful information. I like the idea of having something posted on a daily basis, but I don’t want too much stress in order to do it.

It should be something original you have written and are holding the copyright for. The post must something you wrote uniquely for my blog. It will only be published on this blog and not on any other sites (that includes your blog). You will still hold the copyright for your post. Please avoid affiliate links in the blog. But consider adding a short biography of yourself at the end of your article. If you already have a blog or webpage, feel free to add links to one or two of your best posts at the end of your guest post.

It would be helpful to keep the post relevant to the topics of dementia and/or its prevention, brain training, knitting or crafts as it pertains to stimulating the brain, the elderly and elderly care.

I recommend that the post be somewhere between 250-1500 words. Of course, exceptions can be made.

I’ll add images when appropriate. But if you have already found a great image online that is ok to use copyright-wise then feel free to include that link in your email to me. 

I will reserve the right to edit your post in a way that I see fit before publishing. Or reject submissions that I feel aren’t appropriate for this website.

You can send your submissions or any questions you might have to

Many thanks…



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