Do you have to set reminders on your phone these days? Or find yourself wandering from room to room trying to remember what you were looking for?
As new Scottish research shows that feeling low can make you forgetful, we reveal the other reasons – including an important vitamin you could be lacking – that could be making you more forgetful than usual.
Dr Katharina Schnitzspahn from Aberdeen University, who co-led the research, says: “Our study shows an association between mood and remembering intentions – the better the mood, the better we remember our tasks.”
1. Stress, anxiety or depression
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it can make it harder to concentrate and lock in new information or retrieve old memories.
“Acute stress is negatively related to prospective memory – our ability to remember and perform delayed intentions,” says Dr Schnitzspahn. “This was also true for stress experienced during the pandemic.”
And you may be more forgetful if you’re depressed, as studies show depressive symptoms have an adverse effect on the immediate recall of new information. Dr Schnitzspahn says.
2. Drinking too much alcohol
Having too much booze can interfere with short-term memory, even after the effects of alcohol have worn off.
Obviously how much is too much varies from person to person, but the NHS recommends men and women don’t drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, and spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink 14 units a week.
“Alcohol or other drug use, such as ecstasy, has been shown to reduce prospective memory,” confirms Dr Schnitzspahn.
3. High blood pressure
Studies suggest physiological factors like high blood pressure are linked to reduced memory.
4. Lack of sleep
Most of us have experienced how being tired can dull your memory, and studies confirm that sleep deprivation causes short- and long-term cognitive impairment, affecting memory as well as thinking and attention.
“Sleep does seem to have a small benefit on memory,” agrees Dr Schnitzspahn.
5. If it’s exciting – or emotionally meaningful – you’re more likely to remember it
It’s no great surprise if something is boring, you’re much less likely to remember it. Dr Schnitzspahn explains: “Important tasks are better remembered in all age groups.
“Even in young children, making the task exciting, for example rewarding them with a present, can boost performance. Boring or non-meaningful tasks are remembered worse.”
If something isn’t important but is emotionally meaningful or positive, it’s especially well-remembered in older people, says Dr Schnitzspahn.
6. Pregnancy can make you forgetful
If you’re forgetting things more than usual, maybe you’re pregnant!
Australian research found pregnant women are significantly impaired on some, but not all, measures of memory.
Dr Schnitzspahn says: “Pregnancy may be associated with increased difficulty in implementing delayed intentions in everyday life.”
7. Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Some studies suggest vitamin B-12 deficiency is linked to impaired cognition and memory, and have even suggested low vitamin B-12 levels may be associated with an increased risk of dementia.
So it could be worth your while upping your intake of fish, milk, cheese, eggs or fortified breakfast cereals – or look into taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
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