Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep

brain rhythms, sharpening your memory, better sleep

Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep

Written by: Sara Wylie

When it comes to aging, usually the first thing people think of (besides wrinkles) is memory loss.

Whether someone is struggling with a brain degenerative disease or just natural aging, problems with memory are often just part of the deal. But scientists have been doing some digging and have discovered part of the reason why the mind struggles with memory as it ages.

And it has to do with what happens while you’re sleeping.

Brain Rhythms And Sleep 

Your brain follows a natural rhythm as you go about your day to day life and that rhythm changes as you fall asleep. When you’re asleep is when the majority of memory work happens. It’s when your brain stores all necessary information into your long-term memory and dumps everything it deems unnecessary. It’s essentially sorting all the information you have processed that day.

There are two major brainwaves that make this sorting possible when you’re asleep and when those two brainwaves get off rhythm at all, it effects your ability to sort and retain memories.

The Study

As reported in the journal Neurona team of scientists conducted a research study that determined how older brains may begin to experience memory loss because of these brainwaves getting out of sync.

“It’s like a drummer that’s perhaps just one beat off the rhythm… The aging brain just doesn’t seem to be able to synchronize its brainwaves effectively,” said Matt Walker, one of the paper’s main authors and professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley.

For the study, the research team had 20 young adults learn 120 pairs of words before having them get some sleep and monitoring their brain activity with electrodes attached to their heads. The next day, they had them try to recall the word pairs as best as they could. The results showed that the quality of their memory the next morning was determined by how well their brainwaves had synchronized in their sleep.

“When those two brain waves were perfectly coinciding, that’s when you seem to get this fantastic transfer of memory within the brain from short term vulnerable storage sites to these more permanent, safe, long-term storage sites,” Walker said in regards to the results.

Next, the team had 32 people in their 60’s and 70’s repeat the same exercise and they monitored how their brainwaves were less in sync overnight and also how they struggled to remember the word pairs the next morning.

“If you’re like 50 milliseconds too early, 50 milliseconds too late, then the storing mechanism actually doesn’t work,” Randolph Helfrich, another contributor to the study and postdoctoral fellow to Walker at UC Berkeley, commented.

The researchers also determined that the likely reason for these brainwaves getting out of sync is the atrophy of the part of the brain that contributes to producing deeper sleep.  Atrophy is the degeneration of cells that often happens as a brain gets older.

This was frustrating to the researchers as atrophy tends to be such an expected phenomenon that comes with age, but with the results of this study, they plan to see how they can improve this aging condition and also how to help get these brainwaves back in sync to improve the quality of memory.

What Does This Mean For You?

Even though aging is natural and some brain deterioration is possible, it doesn’t mean you can’t start now to help take better care of your brain and improving your sleep at night. One of the best things you can do for your brain is make sure you’re getting good quality sleep every night.

Tips For Better Sleep

  1. Create A Good Sleep Environment – Consider your sleeping environment, are there any lights that bother you at night? Do you use your bed as a space to work or eat or other things during the day? Is your bed comfortable and fit for your needs? Your bed should be a space designated for only sleep and one of the most comfortable places for your body to rest. This not only helps with sleep quality, but also with joint health as you age.
  2. Stop Eating/Drinking At Least An Hour Before Bed – When your body is busy digesting food and liquid, it has a hard time transitioning you into a restful sleep. Not to mention the need you’ll have for the bathroom in the middle of the night. Try to stop eating and drinking at least an hour before bed to give your body a chance to settle.
  3. Stick To A Consistent Sleep Schedule – The more consistent you are with a bedtime routine, the easier it will be for you to get some good, quality sleep. Try to get at least 8-9 hours in every night.
  4. Stop Using Electronics Before Bed – Studies have proven that the blue light emitted from your cellphone, computer or other electronic devices actually stimulates the hormones in your body that keep you awake and throws off your natural sleep cycle. Instead of depending on your phone to help you wind down at night, consider reading, meditating, journaling, bathing, or doing some other relaxing, electronic-free activity to help you relax before bedtime.
  5. Drink Relaxing Teas In The Evening – Drinking relaxing teas or other drinks an hour or so before bed can help you wind down and prepare for sleeping at night. Consider giving our Organifi Gold a try. It’s a completely natural formulation of turmeric, ginger and other soothing superfoods that are designed to help your body relax.


There are also things you can do to help keep your mind sharp, especially as you age. Consider giving one of these simple, yet effective tips a try (remember, just like your muscles need to work consistently to stay strong, so does your brain!).

Tips For Sharpening Your Memory

  1. Always Keep Learning – Consistent mental stimulation is one of the best things you can do for your brain (besides sleep). Study things you’re interested in, make a good reading list, learn how to play a new instrument, take some online courses or check out some local schools and what they have to offer. There’s endless ways you can keep expanding your knowledge base and keep your brain working.
  2. Keep Stress In Check – A little stress is natural, but constant stress can be very damaging to your health, including your brain health. Do whatever you need to do in order to keep your stress levels low. Take time to meditate every day, practice breathing exercises, take power naps, learn to say no when your plate is too full, find a good outlet like journaling or some other form of creation, play some sports, practice yoga, etc.
  3. Stay Active – Physical activity not only helps keep you in shape, but also helps keep your brain functioning as it should. Find something you enjoy and make time for it every day. Get at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity in a day.
  4. Eat Brain-Boosting Foods – Keep some good brain-boosting foods in your diet, such as dark leafy greens, turmeric, walnuts, dark chocolate, avocados, sunflower seeds, berries, etc. And of course, make sure you’re staying hydrated (it’s suggested that you drink half your body weight in ounces, for example if you weigh 130 pounds, you should be drinking at least 65 ounces of water a day, more if you’re super active).
  5. Do Memorization Exercises – There are endless games, apps and exercises out there that are fun and can help you keep your brain stimulated throughout the day. These are great alternatives to mindlessly scrolling through your phone or staring at the wall. Also make it a goal to try and memorize lists you create and other things in your life. The more you do it, the sharper your brain can get.


Aging may be inevitable, but you have control over how well it happens. Start today to make sure you are taking the best care possible of your brain and getting the sleep you need.

What other tips do you have for getting better sleep at night and for improving your memory? Feel free to share with us in the comments below, we love to hear and learn from you.


Sara Wylie

Sara Wylie

Editorial Intern at
Sara Wylie resides in Utah where she is currently working as an Editorial Intern for while also pursuing a career in writing. She hopes that through her words and fiery passion, she will be able to not only inspire others to seek out and nourish their own passions, but to also help others feel what it’s like to truly be alive.
Sara Wylie


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