Lucid dreaming

Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep helps you think more clearly.

But the quality time you clock every night could have a bigger impact on your brain than you think. And new research shows that this is especially true as you age.

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley assessed both sleep and memory skills in two sets of healthy adults–one group of twenty-somethings and another group comprised mostly of adults in their seventies.

Initial tests showed that the younger subjects performed roughly 25 percent better on recall tasks than their elderly counterparts. And this advantage jumped to 55 percent after both groups slept for eight hours.

At the same time, imaging scans revealed that the older subjects enjoyed far less deep sleep than the younger set. A full 75 percent less, in fact.

The study authors’ conclusion? Lack of deep sleep could actually be a major driving force behind all those so-called “senior moments.”

Now for the good news: Nurturing deeper sleep can be as simple as boosting your physical activity. Which means you’re actually buying a better memory along with that monthly gym membership.

Now that’s what I call a perk.

“Prefrontal atrophy, disrupted NREM slow waves and impaired hippocampal-dependent memory in aging.” Nat Neurosci. 2013 Jan 27. doi: 10.1038/nn.3324. [Epub ahead of print]