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How to Improve Short-Term Memory in 4 Ways


Article at a Glance

  • Making a few lifestyle changes could improve both your short-term memory and your overall health.
  • Getting more sleep, eating a Mediterranean diet, using memory techniques, and trying some unconventional techniques could improve your short-term memory.
  • A doctor can determine whether your short-term memory loss is a sign of a more significant problem.

Do you ever find yourself walking into a room, only to forget the reason why you were there in the first place? Losing your short-term memory can be one of the most frustrating things that happen as you age. Fortunately, there are four things you can do to help improve your short-term memory.

4 Ways to Improve Your Short-Term Memory

Implementing these techniques could not only boost your short-term memory but may improve your overall health and well-being as well.

1. Get More Sleep

How to improve short term memory: Man in beanie sleeping

If you are struggling with short-term memory problems, one of the first things you should do is take a look at whether you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a substantial American epidemic. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that roughly one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep every night [R].

Studies have proven that sleep is a necessary component of memory consolidation. Although researchers are still trying to determine the precise reason as to why, it’s been well accepted that a lack of sleep reduces memory performance [R].

Researchers from Harvard Medical School also found that those who are sleep-deprived had problems with blood flow, such as narrowed blood vessels and high blood pressure. The lack of blood flow led to a lack of oxygen in the brain, which therefore inhibited cognitive function [R].

Furthermore, the study found that sleep-deprived mice also had higher amounts of beta-amyloid protein deposits in the brain. In the aforementioned study, Harvard researchers also noted that beta-amyloid has links to declines in spatial memory and thinking.

For the record, the study also concluded that individuals who sleep more than seven to eight hours were just as likely to suffer memory problems. An increase in the hours of sleep does not necessarily mean an improvement in the quality of sleep. So, taking a weekend to catch up on sleep will likely not help you improve your short-term memory. Instead, you should focus on routinely getting seven to eight hours of sleep. A consistent good night’s sleep could go a long way toward improving your memory.

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

Another way to possibly improve short-term memory is by improving your diet. If you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats, there’s a greater chance that your blood is high in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can encourage the formation of beta-amyloid in the brain, again increasing the likelihood of memory problems [R].

Researchers believe that replacing bad fats, such as saturated and trans fats, with healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats could improve memory. Focus on foods rich in omega–3 fatty acids. Perhaps one of the best ways to do this is through the Mediterranean diet. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet could help improve mild cognitive impairment [R]. The Mediterranean diet is rich in unsaturated fats from foods such as:

  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Avocado

3. Use Memory Techniques

How to improve short term memory: Illustration of plasma ball

In a traditional sense, the brain is an organ. However, many researchers treat the mind as a muscle, believing that you can train it to perform cognitive functions. If you are someone who dedicates themselves to physical fitness and overall health, consider taking a more well-rounded approach that includes brain training as well. Practicing memory techniques could go a long way toward improving short-term memory.

One of the best ways to train your brain is by using mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices are techniques designed explicitly to help a person improve his or her ability to remember something. These devices have been around for thousands of years, initially used by the ancient Greeks. Studies have found that mnemonic training can help retrain the brain, supporting superior memory [R].

Here are five of the most popular mnemonic devices in use today:

  • The method of loci
  • Acronyms
  • Imagery
  • Chunking and organization
  • Rhymes [R]

The method of loci involves memorizing things in a context with which individuals are familiar. For instance, people can imagine their house or apartment and think about the items in a particular room, such as a bedroom or bathroom. Then, they can go through a list of words or concepts and match one of the words to one of the objects in the house, making it easy to retrieve the information in the future.

Acronyms involve using the first letter of a group of words to help establish a connection. For instance, people who played instruments in school may be familiar with the notes on the treble staff, “EGBDF.” It could be challenging to remember these words as-is. However, when spelling out the acronym to “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” it becomes much easier to remember.

Imagery is another mnemonic technique that could be useful. Try linking a name or phrase that you just learned to an image. For example, if a person struggles to remembers names and meets someone named “Daisy,” they could associate the name with a visual image of the flower.

Chunking and organization involve breaking down information into more sizable pieces. The human brain can only process seven pieces of information at once. If a person tries to memorize an entire phone number as a long 10-digit string, they likely won’t be as successful as trying to memorize it in three separate sections. Think (800) 121-2345 versus 8001212345.

Rhyming is another mnemonic technique. There’s a reason that elementary school teachers use phrases like, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

4. Try an Unconventional Method

How to improve short term memory: Three Wrigleys gum packs

In addition to the lifestyle changes listed above that could improve short-term memory, you could also consider using an array of unconventional methods. For instance, you can try chewing gum to stimulate activity in the hippocampus part of your brain. The hippocampus is critical for short-term memory function [R]. Research shows that chewing improves cognitive function in the hippocampus [R].

Another unconventional method that you could try is moving your eyes back and forth from one side to the other. Studies have found that those individuals who moved their eyes back and forth for 30 seconds saw their short-term memory improve by 10% immediately after that [R]. Scientists are unsure if this could help you do things like remembering where you parked your car. But, the researchers found that the bilateral eye movements allowed individuals to identify the true source of memories, which helped with retention in the moment.

Don’t Be Afraid to Visit a Trusted Doctor

If you notice that you are suffering from memory loss, please visit a trusted healthcare professional. Memory loss could be a sign of a more severe condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Your doctor may conduct memory tests or use other memory tasks to help determine what is causing your recent short-term memory loss, and it’s better to get checked out sooner rather than later if you have concerns. Fortunately, at Prime, our goal is to help you turn back the clock from the inside out. We’ve compiled a list of trusted healthcare providers who could take a look at how your memory is functioning and make suggestions for memory improvement.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. Information is provided for educational purposes. You should consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website.

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