Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep is essential to health. Sleep helps the body recover, helps the brain store the day’s information, and lowers the risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A new study links sleepless nights with cognitive decline.
A survey published in the scientific journal Brain followed 100 adults with an average age of 70 for four and five years. According to the American website The Conversation, at the beginning of the study, 88 volunteers did not show signs of dementia, while 12 volunteers had cognitive impairment (mild dementia) and 11 volunteers were diagnosed with pre-dementia.
During the study, participants were asked to complete a series of neuropsychological tests to look for signs of cognitive decline or dementia. The scores achieved are categorized in a table called the cognitive structure of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. The site states that the higher the score, the better the perception will be over time.
Participants’ sleep was measured using an EEG for four to six nights. This was only done once, three years after people completed their first cognitive test. The scan allowed the scientists to accurately measure brain activity, whether or not it was asleep (and for how long), and how restful sleep was.
Overall, the researchers found that sleeping less than 4.5 hours and more than 6.5 hours a night, as well as poor sleep, is associated with cognitive decline over time, according to The Conversation.
Interestingly, the effect of sleep duration on cognitive function was similar to that of age, which is the largest risk factor for dementia.
The US site states that previous research had already discovered that lack of sleep can lead to cognitive decline, especially for those who suffer from insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness. One survey revealed that people who sleep poorly have higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain, a protein common in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists aren’t sure why poor sleep is linked to cognitive decline. One theory is that sleep helps the brain get rid of harmful proteins that build up during the day, including beta-amyloid, the site says.
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