Not getting enough sleep? You’re putting your memory at risk

Johns Hopkins University researchers have discovered a link between lost sleep and lost memories.

In a new study, they found that a key purpose of sleep is to recalibrate the brain cells that are responsible for learning and memory.

They also say that sleep solidifies the lessons we learn, and that it allows the brain to use them when awakened.

Graham Diering, Ph.D., the postdoctoral fellow who led this Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study, says:

“Our findings solidly advance the idea that the mouse, and presumably the human brain, can only store so much information before it needs to recalibrate.”

Diering also notes that:

“Without sleep and the recalibration that goes on during sleep, memories are in danger of being lost.”

This study adds to an ever-growing evidence base about the importance of quality sleep.

The Best Way to Improve Your Craft
Isn’t Necessarily to Work More Hours

For professionals who strive to maximize their productivity and output each day, sleep often takes a backseat to late-night workloads.

Now, there are certainly situations like big project deadlines that require working into the early-morning hours. For many of us with families — late nights may be our only quiet time to catch up on emails or the day’s headlines.

Making sleep a low priority can be detrimental to your health, for starters. Now, we also know that it hurts your ability to improve your craft.

Current research suggests that information is “contained” in parts of your brain’s neurons. (Neurons are cells within the nervous system that transmit information to other nerves, muscles or glands.)

Specifically, the information you learn causes changes in neurons’ synapses. (Synapses are connections that are responsible for communication between other neurons.)

The researchers believe memories are encoded through these synaptic changes when we learn new information.

But when neurons are “maxed out” and constantly firing, they lose their capacity to convey information. This hinders learning and memory.

Sleep on This …

The researchers found that sleep deprivation puts you at risk of maxing out your neurons. That’s because it interrupts the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for creating these changes in your synapses.

The Johns Hopkins research suggests that synapses are restructured throughout the brain every 12 hours or so. This happens whether you are awake or asleep.

But you may find that you retain more, and perhaps even make better decisions, if more of these cycles happen while you slumber.

In other words, as Diering says,

“This demonstrates why ‘sleeping on it’ can actually clarify your ideas.

“The bottom line is that sleep is not really downtime for the brain. It has important work to do then, and we in the developed world are shortchanging ourselves by skimping on it.”

If you want to improve your performance in the workplace, then it’s time you start improving your sleep habits.

Related story: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep

I would love to know if you’re currently getting enough sleep, or if you plan to start optimizing your sleep after reading this article. For our other readers, we would also appreciate telling us your personal story how improving your sleep has affected your life. All you need to do is leave a comment in the section below.

Happy and Healthy Investing,

Brad

Reference:
Homer1a drives homeostatic scaling-down of excitatory synapses during sleep
Graham H. Diering1, Raja S. Nirujogi2,*, Richard H. Roth1,*, Paul F. Worley1, Akhilesh Pandey2, Richard L. Huganir1,†
Science 03 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6324, pp. 511-515
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8355

Your thoughts on “Not getting enough sleep? You’re putting your memory at risk”

  1. I’ve always subscribed that if 2 std drinks in the evening are good for me then 8 std drinks is 4 times better. However, recently I have started to question this position, amongst ‘other’ things, sleep may be adversely affected.
    I’m also finding it hard to be rational in my thinking on this matter. ?

  2. I find this article scary yet very true. I am 65 and ever since menopause, I cannot sleep. I
    have been taking Lunesta for years, and I am definitely getting immune to its effects as I sleep for a few hours and then I am up. I cannot fall asleep without it. I have tried ‘natural’ methods and they do not work. My memory is truly effected by this lack of sleep and I wish
    someone could help me w/ a tried and true method that could help me sleep.

  3. I understand that you can get glasses that block out the blue light of the computer screen or other technological appliances that prevent sleep when you go to bed. I take Melatonin to help with my sleep. Start out small and work up until you get the right dose.

  4. Hi Brad,
    Excellent article! We as a nation are massively sleep deprived..and it is absolutely amazing, once again, to hear so called smart people, I have heard top managers talk about working on less than 5 hours of sleep etc…What they DON’T know is that not only are they robbing the ability of the brain to function and recall memory more clearly, they are taking time off their lifespan! Sleep is that important, not only to memory and thinking, but cleaning the toxins out of the brain as well….

  5. I have often found that when confronted with a situation that requires some sort of solution or different perspective that “sleeping on it” and giving my subconscious mind time to work on it has resulted in great ideas & solutions. Of course, I only resort to this after making a concerted effort with my conscious mind to address the situation.

  6. My grandmother, who died at age 104, told me as a teenager in high school that the best way to prepare for tests at school is to study the night before, get a good night’s sleep, review in the morning then go take the test. This event occurred about 55-60 years ago and cost me no money. How much money was spent in this study to learn the same thing that Grandma knew from experience and practical application of this information? The article brought back very pleasant memories of my grandmother!

  7. They have known this for years. Edgar Cacey and Dale Carnegie addressed this subject. Tough some people don’t require much. They are rare. There was a famous trial lawyer in the ’20s or so who never was able to sleep more than 5 1/2 hrs/night. He used his time to practice his oration. He was the first lawyer in America to be paid one million dollars for winning a case. Unlike Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. They had recording studios on their private properties. They could have used their time to record music. Come to think of it, Prince was another idiot. Tough Elvis did like to stay up ’til dawn and beyond singing Gospel songs. Made his manager nuts!

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Brad Hoppmann originally grew up in Florida, but has lived in Baltimore, Charlotte and New York as well throughout his career. Always an athlete, he played varsity football and water polo at the University of Florida and received All-SEC/SCC honors.