What Is Short Term Memory Loss?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
January 17, 2019

What is short term memory loss? Can’t recall? Seriously, short term memory loss may be temporary if it arises from a particular event. Learn more here.

What is short term memory loss?

Short-term memory includes information and sensory data like sounds and images acquired in the last few seconds to several days. If you have short term memory loss, you might forget a name from an introduction 20 minutes earlier, but still recall your first grade teacher’s name or a phone number from your college days.

Most people find that their memory seems to get worse over time. Aging — and modern life — is rough on our memories.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: When to Worry About Memory Loss


For example, going short of sleep can make you less able to learn the next day.

Common medications, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, statins, beta-blockers, anti-seizure meds, muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and pain medications can interfere with memory.

Being overstressed or anxious limits your concentration and makes it harder to learn new things.

Smoking cuts how much oxygen reaches the brain. Smokers have a harder time associating faces with names than nonsmokers do.

Abusing alcohol is another trigger.

Short-term memory loss could arrive after a rupture in a brain aneurysm — a bulging spot on the wall of the brain arteries. A pool of blood clots and puts pressure on brain cells, possibly damaging or destroying them. Most people end up with lasting memory loss.

Seizures, heart bypass surgery, depression, stroke, concussion, or a brain infection can all trigger short-term memory loss. And one of the first signs of dementia is short-term memory loss.

In some cases, people can’t recall a traumatic event they experienced or witnessed, but this loss doesn’t affect their memory of other things as time goes on.

When testing for any type of memory loss, a doctor will take a medical history and then ask other questions to test memory. Your doctor might order blood tests to rule out a vitamin B-12 deficiency, thyroid disease, or other possible causes of memory loss. You might need an MRI or CT scan of the head and an EEG to measure electrical activity in the brain or a cerebral angiography to examine blood flow.

How to improve memory

It is important to treat the underlying causes of short-term memory loss. Check into your medications — you may be able to switch medications and improve your memory. You may benefit from nutritional supplements or therapy or medication for anxiety or depression. Quit smoking, limit your alcohol intake, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Drinking coffee may improve your ability to store new memories — it makes sense to drink coffee when studying, but not at the expense of getting enough sleep before an exam. Chewing gum could help you concentrate during a test of your memory.

Regular exercise is a potential all-around memory-booster, as it is associated with protection against general brain deterioration from aging.

Early research suggests that meditation can be surprisingly powerful at improving memory, for example, improving performance on a GRE standardized test with just two weeks of training.

Doing brain teasers like Sudoku and crossword puzzles may help as well. You can also try a whole variety of strategies to improve memory called mnemonics, in which you link new pieces of information to information stored in long term memory.

Here’s the deal: Don’t panic if you have occasional memory lapses, but if you notice a decline try to link it to an event or change in your habits. Some triggers for short-term memory loss can be removed. Your doctor can help.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Yoga for Your Memory


January 17, 2019

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN