Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Memory Formation

Sleep loss impairs memory and learning.

In the hours following new learning, sufficient sleep is necessary to fully process new memories.  This is called memory consolidation.

Sleep loss blocks new learning in mice.  When mice were taught a fear stimulus, to be afraid of something, normal sleep allowed that memory to form.  The process involves an increase in S6 phosphorylation in the part of the hippocampus where memories begin to form (the dentated gyrus).  When mice were sleep deprived, there was a decrease in phosphorylation, disrupting memory formation.  The decrease in phosphorylation also slowed the activity in surrounding brain cells caused by the release of inhibitory substances GABA and somatostatin.

Takeaway: Sleep deprivation causes a disruption in the release of several chemicals in the memory-processing hippocampus, which slows brain activity and impairs memory formation.  To improve memory and learning, do not skip or short-change sleep.


NeuroscienceNews, How Sleep Sabotages New Memory Storage in the Hippocampus, Aug 4, 2021,

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