Interrupted sleep takes toll on memory formation, study says

July 28, 2011 By Liz Szabo, USA Today

A new study seems to confirm what exhausted parents have long suspected but may have been too tired to articulate:

Lack of sleep turns the brain to mush.

More precisely, waking up too frequently prevents the brain from forming .

Although these results come from a study of mice, some sleep-deprived mothers - including the study's author - say the findings ring true. Sleep researcher Asya Rolls, like many mothers, suffered from "momnesia," the mental fog that sets in shortly after delivery and may continue until youngsters sleep consistently through the night.

"I can remember my children as babies, but it's a very hazy memory, based mostly on photographs and videos," says Rolls, a researcher at Stanford University and co-author of a study in this week's .

Indeed, Rolls found that waking up her too often gave them a sort of .

After a good night's rest, her lab mice are highly curious, eagerly investigating new objects in their cages while ignoring older, familiar items, Rolls says.

After a night of poor sleep, however, her mice resembled a group of hungover drunks with no memory of the previous night's debauch, says Rolls, whose kids woke her every 1.5 to 2 hours the first few weeks.

In the lab, Rolls interrupted the animals' sleep by stimulating them with pulses of light every 60 seconds. The next day, she says, they behaved as if they had never seen certain objects, exploring them as if it were the first time they'd seen them.

Lab mice normally wake more frequently than people, Rolls says. Still, arousing them that often may have prevented them from converting short-term memories into long-term ones.

These findings don't necessarily apply to humans, but Ron Szymusiak, a sleep neurobiologist at the University of California-Los Angeles, calls the study a "very elegant experiment" that adds to a growing body of science showing that undermines our ability to think clearly. Studies have shown that one night without sleep, for example, impairs a driving ability nearly as much as if they were legally drunk.

There's still no relief in sight for new moms such as Kilie Porter. "If I get 2 hours and 40 minutes of continuous , that's like the best day ever," says Porter, 28, of near Seattle.

"It does take a toll on your mind," Porter says. "You're not as sharp as you once were. The other day I was wondering why the dogs were pacing around. And then I noticed that it was 7 p.m. and I hadn't fed them yet."

And while her husband may not wake up as often as she does, Porter says he may have a harder time adjusting.

"While I can take a nap the next day, he can't," Porter says. "He has to get up at 5:30 a.m. and speak to other people, not just a baby."

Explore further: Interrupted sleep impairs memory in mice

Related Stories

Interrupted sleep impairs memory in mice

July 25, 2011
With the novel use of a technique that uses light to control brain cells, Stanford University researchers have shown that fragmented sleep causes memory impairment in mice.

Recommended for you

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hush1
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
http://health.how...womb.htm

Actually the whole series is better than this USA of yesterday article.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.