Independent Living

How Does Sleep Affect Your Memory?

Posted by Frank Herold on August 2, 2021


Many older adults will experience insomnia from time to time and, while one bad night's sleep is usually nothing to worry about, when insomnia becomes chronic it can impact your overall health, including memory and cognitive functioning.

Related Blog: 5 Mental Exercises Seniors Can Try to Stay Sharp

How Does Sleep Help Memory?

When you sleep at night, your brain processes information and forms memories. But when that sleep is disrupted, these important functions cannot take place. 

After a restless night, you may have trouble remembering things like your new neighbor's name or the title of a book you wanted to buy.

Sleep deprivation can also make it difficult for you to focus and learn new information. That's why sometimes you’ll feel "foggy" when you don't get enough sleep. You may also struggle to learn the rules of a new card game or become disoriented when driving somewhere new. 

In older adults, these types of sleep-related impairments may be initially mistaken for memory loss or certain forms of dementia. 

Why do Seniors Experience Sleep Deprivation?

Not getting enough sleep can be frustrating for an older adult. you may toss and turn most of the night, only to spend much of the day struggling to keep your eyes open. 

When a senior experiences ongoing insomnia, the underlying causes can be medical, behavioral, environmental, or any combination of the three.

Medical Reasons for Insomnia

An undiagnosed or untreated medical condition can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety or frequent trips to the bathroom are some of the conditions that make it impossible to get a good night's sleep. 

And some seniors take medication that interferes with your natural sleep cycle. Many people will occasionally experience a bad night's sleep. But if insomnia is a recurring problem, a doctor's visit is in order. 

Behavioral Reasons for Sleep Deprivation

Sometimes your own behaviors get in the way of restful sleep. But, that is not to say that these are easy changes to make. Some seniors may nap too long in the afternoon or not get enough exercise during the day. The key to a good night's sleep may just be taking a morning stroll most days or switching over to decaffeinated coffee after lunch. 

Environmental Reasons for Poor Sleep

A bedroom should be a comfortable, calm, and restful place. The right mattress and bed linens can make all the difference. If noise is a concern, a white noise machine might be a wise purchase. 

Some seniors also enjoy having a radio set to a low volume. If outside light is a concern, blackout curtains can help keep a bedroom dark. 

What is the Appropriate Amount of Sleep for Seniors?

It's a myth that older adults need less sleep as you age. Most healthy seniors will still need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to feel you best. In addition to sleeping at night, some older adults need a nap during the day. There is nothing wrong with a midday rest, so long as it does not interfere with nighttime sleep.

Insomnia is more than a nuisance, it also impacts a senior's quality of life. At Jacaranda Trace, we offer several amenities to help residents live your best life. From on-site healthcare services to a heated pool and fitness center, we make it easy to achieve your wellness goals. To learn more about our community, contact us today. 

Cadbury Park

Tags: Memory care, alzheimers, dementia, memory care venice, caring for patients with alzheimers, memory loss