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.


Sleep Deprivation — Detriments and Disadvantages


The last several days have been unpleasant for me –I’ve not been sleeping well at all. Wednesday and yesterday were much worse. Thanksgiving Day was pretty good. By yesterday the sleep deprivation was really catching up to me. How did I ever stay awake when I was in training for 36 hours at a time? I guess the aging process finally catches up.
I slept a little better last night but the effects of sleep deprivation don’t just disappear after one good night’s sleep. Today I still feel a little out of it. But I’m forcing myself to blog. It is so hard to concentrate on the keys, I’m not even sure why I’m doing this. Thank God for spell checkers!
I’ve been thinking about the aging process in general and how the elderly do not always get adequate sleep. In the demented population, the effects can be greatly magnified. And, yes. When the patient doesn’t sleep well, then the caregiver begins to experience sleep deprivation. So, it can affect others at the same time. Imagine many members of a household being sleep deprived on a chronic basis!
I’ve listed some common symptoms of sleep deprivation some of which are short-term while others are long-term. The green highlighted ones are the ones I’ve been feeling the most.

Short-term effects of sleep deprivation: 

  1. Decreased daytime alertness. Loss of 1 ½ hours sleep can result in a 30-35% reduction in daytime alertness.
  2. Tiredness and feeling a need for 0a nap
  3. Irritability, edginess and moodiness
  4. Headache
  5. Loss of balance and coordination
  6. Inability to tolerate stress
  7. Memory lapses and difficulty concentrating
  8. Learning, behavioral or social problems
  9. Blurred vision
  10. Vague body discomfort
  11. Changes in appetite
  12. Feeling lazy
  13. Hypnagogic hallucinations (the state between being awake and falling asleep. For some people, this is a time of visual and auditory hallucination.
  14. Uncooperative attitude
  15. Hallucinations, delusions and illusions (Hallucinations are false perceptions that occur in the absence of appropriate external stimuli, whereas illusions are misinterpretations of external stimuli that are, in fact, present).
  16. Slowing and slurring of speech and difficulty naming common objects.
  17. Episodes of fragmented thinking
  18. Paranoia
  19. Expressionless appearance or looking and feeling dazed
  20. Monotone speech
  21. Feeling frustrated if not being able to nap

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Impaired immune system
  • Frequent infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Psychiatric problems such as depression and other mood disorders
  • Mental impairment
  • Increased mortality risk
  • Relationship problems with a bed partner
  • Obesity

Perhaps on another occasion, I can discuss sleep in more depth.



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