Can you really sleep your way to a better memory? Sound too good to be true? Believe, believe!
Wait a second though. Isn’t our blog focused on active aging? How active can sleep be? (Not referring to sleep walking if you wondered.) Since we define “active aging” as making good choices about wellness, exercise, movement, and health habits, then sleep habits definitely come into play.
If you’ve been reading our posts for a bit, you know my sister and I have a particular interest in the connection between the brain and body.Newly researched pink noise is a real memory booster #Babyboomers #Activeaging Click To Tweet
Guess what? Do you use background sounds to help you sleep? While “white noise” such as a static, steady background hum nicely lulls us to sleep, newly researched “pink” noise is a real memory booster. Pink noise offers rhythmic variation with a mix of high and low frequencies. Examples might include falling rain, waves lapping at a shore, or an oscillating fan. White noise is steady and eventually gets ignored by the brain; pink noise has an intermittent quality that keeps your neurons firing, positively affecting memory storage during deep sleep stages.
Getting enough quality sleep becomes more problematic with age. As we get older, we sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also linked to shorter time spans of sleep, although studies show we still need as much sleep as when we were younger. The exciting aspect about pink noise is that the study (from Northwestern University) focused on older adults, who performed better on memory tests after just one night listening while snoozing.
Already well established is that:
A 2010 Harvard study discovered that those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on a test of creativity than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. That REM sleep gave the brain time and the ability to work creatively on various test problems.
If you really want a better memory, easier learning and enriched creativity, add pink noise to your nightly 7-9 sleep hours.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Uh, hold on while I jog my memory.
Did you see the hint I embedded in that prior sentence? Based on the last 10 years of what is now overwhelming evidence, the BEST activity you can do to improve your memory is anything aerobic. You even get a double bonus in that your memory is enhanced both immediately and long term through aerobic, aka cardio exercise.
More than strength training, more than brain games, better than travel, or learning a new skill — the powerhouse, champion way to improve memory is to exercise aerobically. The above listed activities are certainly helpful, though runners up. Ha ha aha Worked in another word play.
What does “aerobic” really mean? How do you know if you are performing cardio activity?The best exercise you can do to improve memory is .... #activeaging Click To Tweet
Aerobic exercise is defined as all of the following occurring simultaneously:
If you like etymology then you’ll enjoy knowing that the word “aerobic” is derived from the Greek word “aero” for air or oxygen and “bio” indicating “life.” In short, aerobic exercise is life giving. Back in the day, our ancestors had to run to eat or avoid being eaten. Our bodies and brains were made to move aerobically. We ran to survive. We aerobicise to thrive!
So what are some types of aerobic exercise? And does any cardio activity improve memory or just certain kinds?
Great news — any cardio exercise will improve your memory, recall, attention span, and focus. You can take a step class, walk your dog, hike trails, swim, dance, cavort (we baby boomers are good cavorters, right?). Other aerobic activities include kickboxing, indoor cycling, outdoor bike riding, getting on treadmills, elliptical machines, the stairclimber. Lots of options.
I often get asked whether playing sports is aerobic. Generally if you are very good or very bad at the sport, you will be in your aerobic zone. Picture being pretty unskilled at tennis, for instance. You are chasing the ball all over the place; your opponent is trying to send the ball where you haven’t anticipated; you have to run a lot. Pant pant. Heart rate up, etc.
Or you are very good at tennis, so you constantly shift your position to send your opponent off guard; you run to return hits; you keep in athletic stance, and the game moves quickly. Bingo – cardio!
Certainly a looooooong list of benefits comes with aerobic training. The relative newcomer to the plethora of reasons to get up and boogie is aerobic exercise is numero uno, way out in front as the best way to improve memory. Forget dementia (ok, not a very good word play, but it works). Start NOW to stave off memory loss or to halt its progress. The aerobic movement you do today will give you memory enhancements benefits starting today
ACTION: Learn more motivating ways to improve your memory when you read the two posts below. Comment, share, tweet. THANKS!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
One of the most interesting talks I attended at the recent Natural Products Expo West (NPEW), was a talk on improving memory given by Marilu Henner, sponsored by Ascenta. Best known as an actress, Marilu is also one of 12 people in the world identified as having Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which is the ability to recall the slightest details of nearly every day of life. In short, Marilu can remember almost EVERYTHING in her life, even baby experiences. Believe me, people in the audience were trying to stump her by throwing out dates and asking what day of the week it occurred on and what was going on at that time. Or they had met her once backstage at a play she was in and wondered if she remembered that meeting. She did — listing even what they both wore, ate, said, and saw. Whoa! Would you want that ability, or even some of it? I wouldn’t mind having SDAM (Sorta Decent Autobio Memory).
Marilu claims we all have the capability to “Receive, Retain, and Retrieve” more memories. Which prompts again the question: Why would we want to recall more memories, especially bad ones? Aside from avoiding dementia, (ok, that’s a pretty big “aside”), what is the value of having a brain full of memories? And how do we go about retrieving more of those hidden stories and events?
According to Marilu, developing a strong autobiographical memory is the best path to a more fulfilling life. She asserts that our memories offer meaning. Her memories inform why she is living each day. As well, she believes that bringing more memories into our awareness allows us to
If you see a connection between having a stronger memory and your life purpose, then you will want to do two things: read her tips below and buy her book, Total Memory Makeover.
Using Marilu’s suggestions, not only can you stop memory decline, but also you can retrieve more memories to enrich your life. That’s the kind of active, health aging I can get behind. Now if only I could remember where I put the rest of my notes from the NPEW trade show and educational sessions!