If you’re constantly misplacing your keys and forgetting items on your grocery list, you probably just chalk it up to a bad memory. There are, however, steps you can take to improve your ability to retain information. On Tuesday on KERA's Think, Krys Boyd talked to a neuroscientist to get a few tips.
Daniel Levitin says sleep is like flossing – many of us think we don’t really need it, or we know we need it but don’t do it.
It’s during that down time, though, that our brains consolidate memories.
“The things that happen to you during the day are tossed around in your mind while you sleep," he says. "And connections are made between them and they’re categorized in different ways, and they’re processed so that you can remember them later.”
So while it’s important to get a good night’s rest, say, before a big meeting, it’s also vital to sleep well after.
“If your sleep is disrupted or you don’t get your normal amount of sleep or you stay up late, the events of that previous day can be disrupted for weeks or months afterwards.”
If you find that you’re still having trouble remembering things, Levitin has another piece of advice: get hitched. Or at least get yourself a significant other.
“Usually on an unspoken basis, romantic partners divide up the memory load for their couple. One member of the couple might implicitly take responsibility for things related to home repair and another related to the social calendar," he says. "It allows us to effectively double our memory capacity.”
So if you’re single and an insomniac, you’ve got yet another reason to be annoyed by all those well-rested married couples.
The good news is: you probably won’t remember why they bug you for long.
Daniel Levitin’s book is called The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Think re-airs Monday through Thursday at 9 p.m., or listen to the podcast.