Causes of memory loss in your 20s and 30s

Poor sleeping habits can cause considerable memory loss and forgetfulness even in young people.

Photo credit: Poor sleeping habits can cause considerable memory loss and forgetfulness even in young people.

What you need to know:

  • Studies have shown that the gradual decline of memory starts in the 20s but becomes noticeable in sunset years.
  • Noticeable forgetfulness in young people is a sign that something is amiss.

  • Eating well, remaining physically active, adequate sleep and rest can help you avoid memory loss.

Once in a while, everybody forgets where they placed their keys or what they were going to do in the kitchen. However, if you are in your 20s and you’re forgetting things too often, including important details of events in your life, you may be experiencing memory loss.

While memory loss in older people is expected, in young people, it is a cause for concern. It could be a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle or an underlying medical condition, either of which needs to be diagnosed and managed.

Here are four possible causes of memory loss and what you can do about it:

How is your sleep?

The brain rejuvenates itself while you sleep. In more detailed studies, scientists observed brain waves believed to transfer memories to the prefrontal cortex for long-term storage.

Inadequate sleep interrupts this process leading to loss of long-term memory. If this persists for an extended period, short-term memory is also affected.

Poor sleeping habits therefore can cause considerable memory loss and forgetfulness even in young people. Although a lot of focus is put on how long you sleep, the quality also matters. Eight hours of interrupted and uncomfortable sleep will not be beneficial.

Assess your sleeping habits and change anything that could be causing poor sleep. For example, avoid caffeine and using the Internet just before going to bed.

If the sleeplessness or poor sleep persists even after changing your lifestyle, seek medical assistance.

The mental health connection

Illnesses and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress can lead to short-term memory loss. The effect of mental illnesses on memory can have a far-reaching impact on your day-to-day activities. Left untreated, it can affect long-term memory as well.

For instance, as a young adult, your day probably involves studies and job tasks that rely on memory. Poor memory can lead to poor performance and low productivity in your studies and the workplace. This can get worse if you consider other negative effects of mental illnesses such as poor concentration, lack of clarity of thoughts, and consequently, poor decision-making.

If you are suffering from chronic stress, depression, anxiety, or other similar conditions, seek medical attention promptly to keep the condition from getting worse. Make sure you mention the memory loss to the health professional because some antidepressants can cause or exacerbate memory loss.


Some medications can cause memory loss. Usually, this is a concern among older people taking different types of medications for pain, to help with sleeping, or for cognitive illnesses.  However, some drugs such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, mood-stabilizers/tranquilizers, opiate pain relievers, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs can also affect young people.

Usually, such memory loss is mild, and only for the period, you are under the medication. However, if the memory loss gets to the point where you and other people can notice it, then it is a serious case. Communicate this with your pharmacist if you bought the medication over the counter, or with the physician if it was a prescription drug. They will help you not only identify the exact medication that’s causing the memory loss but also offer you alternatives.

Excessive intake of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs

You’ve probably had a night out where you or your friend blacked out after taking alcohol. Such memory loss can happen even if you didn’t black out fully. Some people struggle to recall what they did, or even who they were with.

Such people may be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. If they persist to drink often, it starts to affect both short-term and long-term memories.

Smoking cigarettes and other substances also affect your brain’s ability to remember mainly by limiting the oxygen supply. As with other causes, this also starts by impacting short-term memory.

Most narcotics cause hallucinations and other-worldly experiences. Unfortunately, the same components that cause you to feel excited or relaxed tamper with your young brain to an extent that you start losing your memory.


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