If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping or purposely gone without sleep—think college all-nighters—you already know how lack of sleep can affect your thinking processes. You may have considered, for example, that you should stay up all night cramming for a test, only to find out the next morning that you didn’t remember as much as you’d hoped.
Even if you’re long out of college, you likely know how foggy your mind feels the morning after a restless night. Nowadays, scientists and other experts recommend that if you’re studying all night, for example, you should at least take the time to nap. Your brain needs that time to refresh and reset itself.
Also, that need only grows with age. Not only do we know there’s a link between getting enough sleep and your ability to remember, but we also know that you need sleep to be able to form memories.
See, once anything happens, your brain makes a note of it. Think of it as your brain jotting it down on a sticky note. The “event,” whether it be a TV show you want to watch, an amazing dessert you had, or your grandchild’s first steps, is stored there temporarily until you fall asleep. Once that happens, your brain transfers that information to long-term storage.
However, once you get older, it is harder to get the kind of sleep you need to make this happen. Then your brain can get stuck, where it’s unable to transfer its files from temporary to long term. That’s why it’s important to get enough sleep, usually around 7 to 8 hours. If you’re having trouble sleeping, examine the cause. If it’s health-related, you should speak to a doctor. You can also try simpler remedies, like limiting caffeine, getting more exercise, and logging off from bright screens. Sweet dreams!