Taking sleeping pills could help a person improve his memory,a controversial new study has claimed.
Researchers have confirmed the mechanism that enables the
brain to consolidate memory and found that a commonly
prescribed sleep aid enhances the process.
The discovery could lead to new sleep therapies that will
improve memory for ageing adults and those with dementia,
Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
Earlier research found a correlation between sleep spindles – bursts of brain activity that last for a second or less during a specific stage of sleep – and consolidation of memories that depend on the hippocampus.
The hippocampus,part of the cerebral cortex,is important
in the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory,and spatial navigation. The hippocampus is
one of the first regions of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s.
Sara C Mednick from the University of California Riverside
and her team demonstrated,for the first time,the critical
role that sleep spindles play in consolidating memory in the
hippocampus,and they showed that pharmaceuticals could
significantly improve that process,far more than sleep alone.
“We found that a very common sleep drug can be used to
increase verbal memory,” said Mednick,the lead author of the
“This is the first study to show you can manipulate sleep
to improve memory. It suggests sleep drugs could be a powerful tool to tailor sleep to particular memory disorders,” Mednick said in a statement.
A total of 49 men and women between the ages of 18 and 39
who were normal sleepers were given varying doses of zolpidem (Ambien) or sodium oxybate (Xyrem),and a placebo,allowing several days between doses to allow the pharmaceuticals to leave their bodies.
Researchers monitored their sleep,measured sleepiness and
mood after napping,and used several tests to evaluate their
They found that zolpidem significantly increased the
density of sleep spindles and improved verbal memory
“(P)harmacologically enhancing sleep spindles in healthy
adults produces exceptional memory performance beyond that
seen with sleep alone or sleep with the comparison drug
(sodium oxybate),” the researchers said.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s,dementia and schizophrenia
also experience decreases in sleep spindles,according to the
study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.