Monday - Apr 19, 2021

What Causes Short and Long Term Memory Loss?

An old-man thinking

As one grows older, it is common to become forgetful.  Sometimes, you don’t know where you put your car key, even though you remember that you are holding it a while ago. There may also be times when you cannot remember the name of the person whom you haven’t seen for quite some time, even if you can recognize his or her face.  

Memory loss is a common problem that one faces from time to time.  It affects different people at varying degree and more often than not, it can interfere with your daily functioning.  Whether you are having a short-term memory loss and or occasional forgetfulness, there are a number of probable causes of memory loss.

Lack of Sleep

Having a good night sleep makes you feel more vibrant and or lively.  Getting a little sleep at night can interfere with your ability to retrieve and consolidate information.  The quality and quantity of your sleep is important for your ability to learn and remember new information.

Too little sleep impairs your ability to focus on the tasks on hand.  Sleep is needed for you to easily remember the things that you need to recall in the future.  Student’s who slept only a few hours because they studied for the exam the following day, will find it difficult to recall the facts and numbers during the exam. 

Lack of sleep makes your judgement poor, and your brain seems not to function the way it used to be.  You may also observed that your fine motor skills is somewhat hindered to function properly.

Stress and Depression

When you are stress out, you are prone to depression.  You find it hard to concentrate and you are easily distracted.  You cannot focus on your work and the things that you used to do.   It then can affect your daily functioning as well as your memory.  Your capability to retain information suffers. Emotional trauma can cause stress which eventually will lead to loss of memory.

Constant stress can impair your attention and memory.  Studies show that stress can cause maladaptive changes that are associated with a stress-related mental illness.  Cortisol which is a major stress hormone is actually linked to depression.

Smoking and Excessive Alcohol Drinking

Alcohol dependence and tobacco use are two health hazards that are known to cause memory loss. Smoking affects a person’s memory because it interferes in the normal transport of oxygen to the brain.  Studies revealed that smokers have difficulty remembering the names of the person when they are shown picture of faces as compared with those who does not smoke.

In a study published in the Journal of Neurology last January 2014, they showed evidence that middle-aged persons who drinks heavily shows decline in reasoning skills, attention, and memory, six year sooner compared with those who drinks less alcohol. Alcohol and tobacco contains illicit chemicals that impair the brain’s ability to recall information.

Prescriptions and OTC Medication

Taking over-the-counter or OTC medications and some prescriptions have side-effects that cause memory loss.  The list of medication includes tranquilizers, sleeping pills, anti-histamines, anti-depressants, pain medication, cholesterol-lowering drugs and muscle relaxants.

Anti-anxiety drugs like Benzodiazepines dampen the activity of the key areas of the brain that includes those that involved in transferring the events from short-term memory to long-term memory. Benzodiazepines are actually used as anaesthesia.  Anaesthesiologist’s use this drug so patient will not have any unpleasant feeling during a surgery and or medical procedure.

In a journal published in Pharmacotherapy in 2009, even drugs that are used to lower the blood cholesterol levels such as statins may impair proper mental processes and memory function by depleting the cholesterol levels in the brain. Lipids or fat cells in the brain are essential to the formation of inter-connection between the nerve cells.  The link that is very important for learning and memory.  As a matter of fact, human brain is composed of a quarter of the body’s entire cholesterol.

Lack of Good Nutrition

Fats, high quality proteins, vitamins and other minerals are essential for proper brain functioning.  Taking daily doses of Vitamins like B1 and B12 are important for better memory. Lack of good nutrition impairs brain development that could lead to memory loss.


Dementia refers to a progressive memory loss that severely affects the person’s ability to function normally.  There are many probable causes of dementia including alcohol and drug abuse and blood vessel diseases.  Other common diseases with signs of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease that causes progressive loss of healthy brain cells thus causing irregularities in the brain.

There are many other probable causes of short and long-term memory loss. Thus, it is important to consult your doctor for further diagnostic testing if in case you feel that your occasional experiences of memory loss are already interfering with your daily activities.  Having an adequate sleep, healthy lifestyle, and good nutrition is also essential to have a better memory and improve brain functioning.