Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

To Sleep, Perchance to Remember

"When we age, unlike a fine wine, sleep doesn't get better. We get less of it and it becomes more fragmented."
"Our research has shown that spindles [bursts of brain energy occurring during non-REM sleep] are an important marker for this memory function of sleep."
"It speaks volumes to the importance of sleep as we get older and trying to do the most we can to get the best quality of sleep."
Dr. Stuart Fogel, sleep researcher, University of Ottawa
CTV London: To sleep therefore to remember?

Dr. Fogel, who is also director of sleep neuroscience research with The Royal's Institute of Mental Health Research in Ottawa, highly recommends a number of steps to take to ensure that routines he outlines as useful will help people get a good night's sleep and they're steeped in common sense. Things that most people could intuit themselves if they just give it proper thought. Since, without adequate sleep hours coupled with quality sleeping conditions, it's easy enough to acquire a serious sleep deficit that does no one any good.

Particularly those in their elderly years. Wait: it's not just the elderly that need to make certain they don't run afoul of the needed number of sleeping hours, and the kind of sleep that refreshes and helps the brain and the body perform as they should, it is younger, much younger people too. Not only because every living creature, including humans, has a biological need to rest, to turn off normal daytime activities to remain in optimum health, but because, according to the research that Dr. Fogel has been involved with, it is those people who have reached their mid-30s who begin to experience a decline in brain benefits linked to proper rest.

Who might have imagined that by the time most people reach their mid-30s their ability to absorb data and to perform newly-learned functions would suffer because the graduated efficiency of the brain to consolidate such information has become impaired as a result of age-related sleep imperfections? But the new study, resulting from research led by Dr. Fogel and published in Neurobiology of Aging indicates that diminishing age-related quality of sleep impacts on the ability of older people to gain optimum results from exposure to new skills.

It appears well understood at this point that sleep has a role of some significance in consolidating memories, and newly acquired skills, that it is key to improving motor skills, reasoning and problem solving. Through the reinforcement process the brain is subjected to during non-REM-2 sleep conditions, skills sets and memories attain permanency and improved consolidation after sleep. But this function becomes impaired in tandem with the aging process, according to the new research.

For young adults, between 45 and 55 percent of sleep, it transpires, is involved in non-rapid eye movement sleep, a syndrome that tends to progressively recede as people become older. During non-REM, stage two sleep, sleep spindles, described as bursts of energy in the brain, occur. And those spindles are directly involved in overnight consolidation leading to improved motor skills, reasoning and problem-solving, critical processes that nature has equipped us with.

Reduced sleep spindles coinciding with advancing age could be the signal of functional and structural changes in those areas of the brain supporting memory function, the research points out. Study subjects were exposed to motor-sequence tasks. Those among the older adults in the study had no problems absorbing the tasks at the same rate and in a similar manner to the younger study subjects. Yet, the older subjects failed to improve at the same rate after sleep as the younger participants in the study.

The term "old" for this study does not denote the elderly, since the participants in this study who were considered old for the purpose of the study, were between the ages of 55 and 60.
  • Recommended: routine bedtimes and waking times;
  • Winding down before bed;
  • Keeping the bedroom for sleeping only;
  • Eliminating light, noise, distractions.

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