What Causes Memory Loss?

Written by Active Minds on Wednesday the 25th of April 2018.



When you or a loved one start to experience memory loss it can be an incredibly scary time. Many people assume that they are beginning to experience the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. However, whilst memory loss is a well-known sign of dementia, there are many other reasons why you may be experiencing loss of memory, many of which can be successfully treated.

Here are some other reasons memory loss may occur:


Severe lack of sleep does more than just make us feel a bit groggy and crave strong coffee. In fact, prolonged insomnia can start to affect the way our brains store memories. When we sleep our brains are working hard cataloguing and storing all our memories from our day.  So, if you don’t sleep, your brain will not be able to do this and you will struggle to remember events.

Alcohol, tobacco or drug use

We all know that alcohol, tobacco and drugs are bad for you, but did you know that they can start to affect memory long term? Excessive alcohol consumption may impact the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that forms, stores and creates memories. Drinking also reduces vitamin intake, most specifically B1 and B12, which are vital for healthy brain function. Similarly, smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets into the brain, which will start to affect a person’s ability to recall memories. Using illicit drugs, over an extended period, starts to change chemicals (such as dopamine) in the brain. This reduces the brains ability to produce these chemicals naturally, thus affecting its capacity to store memories.


Depression can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain which stops the cells interacting with each other properly which can prevent the brain from creating and storing memories. Depression also makes it difficult for people to pay attention and focus which makes it hard to remember things.


Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can take over a person’s every waking moment, dictating every thought and feeling they have. Therefore, it makes sense that a person with anxiety will struggle to concentrate which will affect their ability to remember. Stress also increases cortisol in the brain which can prevent healthy brain connections forming, which will start to inhibit the brains ability to form memories.

Head Injury

A severe hit to the head can cause a subdural haematoma, a blood clot to the surface of the brain. This can cause memory loss (both short and long term) but once the clot is removed most people will make a full recovery and their memory will return.


When a person suffers from a stroke, the blood supply to their brain is stopped. This is due to the blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or the blood vessel leaking into the brain. This can cause short-term memory loss.


If you have any concerns about your memory, don’t wait, make an appointment with your GP and they will arrange tests to determine the reason why you are experiencing memory loss.