CLEVELAND CLINIC NEWS NETWORK - We know that sleep is important, but during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be easy to skimp on a few hours here and there.
But according to Stephen Rao, Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic, research has shown that disrupted sleep can actually impact our ability to form memories.
"We know that sleep is very important for a number of functions, in particular memory," said Dr. Rao. "We acquire new memories, but many times we have to have an adequate amount of sleep for those memories to consolidate."
Dr. Rao said a number of studies have shown that if our sleep is disrupted, we don't remember as much information as we would if we have had a good night's sleep.
He said when a person develops Alzheimer's disease there is typically a build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain. And folks with Alzheimer's disease, who also have sleep disorders, typically have more build-up of those abnormal proteins in their brains.
However, Dr. Rao said experts are still trying to determine whether the Alzheimer's disease is causing the disrupted sleep or if the disrupted sleep is causing the Alzheimer's disease.
He said recent research has shown that even people with healthy brains can show signs of abnormal plaque build-up after one night of disrupted sleep.
Dr. Rao said all of the recent research on sleep and memory loss points to the idea that abnormal sleep may set the stage for people to develop Alzheimer's disease. He believes more research is needed to determine why this happens, but in the meantime it's best to get plenty of rest.
"This time of the year, during the holidays, we have so many chores that we try to accomplish and perhaps we don't leave ourselves enough time for sleep and that's really important for our overall cognitive functioning," said Dr. Rao.