A fantastic night of sleep can help your memory – it’s just a fact!
Next time someone yells at you to get out of bed or complains that you’re taking yet another nap, simply inform them that you’re conducting some serious memory repair. You wouldn’t be lying!
According to scientists, memory and sleep are intrinsically connected and have an interesting relationship – ensuring you get enough rest can actually help you in processing brand new information next time you rise and shine.
Once you’re in REM (rapid eye movement), which is an important stage in your sleeping cycle, the process of storing important memories from your day – and more crucially, getting rid of the useless ones – can begin to take place.
Not Too Much Or Too Little – Just Right
As far as amount of sleep is concerned, however, it is possible to get too much of it – a study from Harvard University indicates that sleep is “a Goldilocks issue” and therefore aiming for an amount straight down the middle is the perfect solution.
Not only will getting an ‘average’ amount of sleep – which is suggested to be around seven hours a day – improve your overall cognitive performance right now, but it could also help you to keep your memory sharp as you get older, too!
Those who get more than nine or ten hours of sleep a night are far more likely to be engaging in “poor quality” sleep, which means even though you’re getting plenty of rest, your brain can never relax enough to start working on those memories.
How Can Poor Quality Sleep Impair The Memory?
Those who are struggling to achieve a complete night of restful sleep on a regular basis may begin to suffer from sleep deprivation – one of the most commonly experienced symptoms is regularly forgetting information, no matter how important.
When you aren’t making sure to get your full eight hours a night, the brain is unable to create new pathways and successfully store all of the memories that you made that day, which means they may be lost forever!
Other potential side effects can include difficulty controlling your emotions or behavior, impaired decision making skills or struggling to absorb information, learn and focus – all of which can also be said to impact on your memory.
Furthermore, those who are regularly deprived of enough sleep are also more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure or narrowing of the blood vessels. All of these ailments are proven to decrease your body’s blood flow to the brain.
Our brain needs access to a whole lot of oxygen and sugar, both of which it takes from our blood, so staying awake too long could deprive it of those vital necessities. This could also be having a direct impact on your memory.
How To Get A Perfect Night Of Sleep
If you’re looking to improve your ability to catch those Zs every night, there are plenty of steps you can take. The following are our major top tips for establishing the perfect sleep situation, so your memory stands the best chance of improvement:
#1 Create Your Bedtime Routine
By establishing – and sticking to! – a regular bedtime, as well as curating the perfect routine for settling down at night, your body will naturally begin to feel tired when you start winding down for the day. Try a hot bath, relaxing candles, maybe reading…
Not everybody’s sleepy activities will be the same, so if you find you prefer to listen to music or watch TV before bed then that’s fine too. Whatever works for you!
#2 Stay Out Of Bed In The Day, Where Possible
If you aren’t asleep, or… you know, doing the other stuff one does in a bed, then you should try and stay out of your bedroom when watching TV or doing other activities. That way, your brain will associate your bed with going to sleep and nothing else.
#3 Stick To Mealtimes
Try to eat your dinner a couple of hours before you’re heading to bed – don’t go to sleep on an empty stomach, but if you find yourself hankering for a snack before sleepytime, try to choose something bland and free of sugar or caffeine.
#4 Limit Fluids In The Evening
Taking particular care to avoid caffeinated beverages in the hours before bedtime is important, but try not to drink too much of anything. That way, you’ll avoid waking up in the middle of the night because you have to pee!
Staying away from soda, tea and coffee is obvious, but you should also try and avoid alcohol. You might think it would help knock you out, but it will actually prevent you from getting that high quality, REM sleep that your memory craves!
#5 Ensure You Exercise Regularly
If you make time for at least a half an hour – if not more – of exercise a day, whether that’s going for a walk, jog or run, doing some other cardio or playing a sport, by the time bedtime comes around you’ll have expended all of your energy.
#6 Still Wide Awake? Get Up Again
In the event that you’re still awake after around 20 minutes of trying to fall asleep, go to a different room and try a relaxing activity under the dimmest possible light (without straining your eyes), for instance reading a book.
Avoid turning to a TV, computer, or your phone – the bright blue lights are designed to keep you alert and awake, which is the opposite of what you’re looking for! Once you feel tired again, go back to bed and try to sleep.
#7 Avoid Evening Stress
If it’s at all possible, try and get all of your work done at a reasonable hour and avoid engaging in demanding activities in the hours leading to bedtime. By keeping the most energetic parts of your day towards the start, you’ll be tired at the end!
When you have children this can be tricky, as working in the evening feels like the only possibility. Using a blue light filter on your computer or phone is a good way to counteract some of the stress of working late, if it’s completely unavoidable.
#8 Create A Relaxing Bedroom Environment
As much as you’re able to, try and make sure that your bed is comfortable with plenty of blankets and pillows, and your room is as dark and quiet as possible. All of these things are conducive to a good night’s sleep!
Keeping your room tidy might not sound like it matters when it comes to nodding off, but you’ll actually be able to get to sleep a lot more easily if you aren’t surrounded by mess. Tidy house, tidy mind, as the saying goes!
Lighting incense or candles that have a gentle, peaceful scent, like lavender, can help lull your body into feeling sleepy too. Just remember to put it out before you close your eyes – or ask someone else to!
#9 Consider Meditation or Mindfulness
Having trouble switching off at the end of the day, even if you feel exhausted? Using a dedicated mindfulness or meditation app or music playlist can be really helpful for winding down, as can yoga! Gentle breathing exercises are also good.
There are many routines and podcasts available on the internet for free, which have been designed to help prepare you for high quality sleep. Using Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube or any streaming service you prefer, there’s a huge range to choose from.