Can sleep keep your memory sharp?
There seems to be little shortage of benefits to good sleep. It plays a critical role in overall health and is linked with a lower risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. It also helps you stay focused and alert every day. It could also be a key player in memory.
A recent study is showing that good sleep is a significant driver of intelligence and memory. It helps people continuously store new information and helps to retain old memories, filing and linking experience and knowledge acquired over a lifetime.
It’s easy to think that memories are static. But they are not. They are never really finalized. Your brain is constantly updating and consolidating them to make room for new information.
This filing process occurs during sleep, when new and old memories are replayed to limit forgetfulness and boost recall ability.
Memories require constant reorganizing and consolidation because there is only so much space in the brain. Every day you are learning something new—directions, news, etc.—and that stuff has to go somewhere.
Sleep helps it all fit. It allows you to hold on to the stuff you learned or experienced years ago while making room for new stuff. You may have even experienced the fruits of sleeps’ endless labor.
For example, have you ever just had a memory you’d long forgotten arise out of nowhere when recalling a story you may have told multiple times? It could be the result of a reshuffle. Your brain may have consolidated specific memories in a certain place, linking information that might have previously been stored separately.
That’s what sleep does: it makes sure you don’t forget what you’ve learned.
If you didn’t have enough reason to prioritize sleep, then let this provide further motivation. Aiming for 6-8 hours of sleep per night is the best way to take advantage of its benefits for the brain and body.