Poor sleep may age your brain

By Maureen Salamon, HealthDay Reporter
Poor sleep may age your brain
Inadequate shuteye associated with mental decline in four new studies.

(HealthDay) -- Evidence is building that poor sleep patterns may do more than make you cranky: The amount and quality of shuteye you get could be linked to mental deterioration and Alzheimer's disease, four new studies suggest.

Too little or too much sleep was equated with two years' brain aging in one study. A separate study concluded that people with sleep apnea -- disrupted breathing during sleep -- were more than twice as likely to develop mild thinking problems or compared to problem-free . Yet another suggests may predict diminished memory and , known as , in older people.

"Whether sleep changes, such as sleep apnea or disturbances, are signs of a decline to come or the cause of decline is something we don't know, but these four studies . . . shed further light that this is an area we need to look into more," said Heather Snyder, senior associate director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago, who was not involved in the studies.

The studies are scheduled for presentation Monday at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting in Vancouver.

The largest of the studies, which examined data on more than 15,000 women in the U.S. Nurses' , suggested that those who slept five hours a day or less, or nine hours a day or more, had lower average mental functioning than participants who slept seven hours per day. Too much or too little sleep was cognitively equivalent to aging by two years, according to the research, which followed the women over 14 years beginning in .

The study also observed that women whose sleep duration changed by two hours or more a day from mid- to later life had worse than participants with no change in sleep duration -- a finding that held true regardless of how long they usually slept at the beginning of the study.

"We went in with the that extreme changes in sleep duration might be worse for cognitive function because they disrupt the circadian rhythm, so these results line up nicely," said study author Elizabeth Devore, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "I think this gives us data to think about sleep- and circadian-based interventions being a route to address cognitive function." Circadian rhythm is the term for the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.

The other new research that associates sleep and brain function follows:

  • Scientists from University of California, San Francisco measured the sleep quality of more than 1,300 women over age 75 using sensor units and recordings of physical changes during sleep. They found that participants with sleep-disordered breathing or had more than twice the odds of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia over five years than those without those conditions. Those with greater nighttime wakefulness were more likely to score worse on tests of verbal fluency and global cognition.
  • In France, nearly 5,000 mentally healthy French people over age 65 were evaluated four times over eight years. Researchers looked at different aspects of insomnia and found that excessive daytime sleepiness -- which was reported by 18 percent of participants -- increased the risk of mental decline. Difficulty in staying asleep did not.
  • Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis obtained samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid from three groups of volunteers -- those with dementia, a healthy age-matched set and a younger set -- over 36 hours and found that daily were linked to levels of amyloid proteins. These proteins are recognized as an indicator of Alzheimer's disease.
While Snyder and Devore agreed that much more research is needed, the studies potentially pave the way for sleep interventions that could stave off .

"We may be able to help those individuals," Snyder said. "If you're having problems with sleep, you may want to follow up with your health care provider."

Because research presented at scientific conferences has not been peer-reviewed and published in a medical journal, results are considered preliminary.

Also, if you suffer from insomnia, don't worry that you're doomed to develop dementia. Although the studies report an association between sleep disturbances and mental decline, they do not show a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information: The American Sleep Association offers tips to achieve better sleep habits.

Related Stories

Trouble sleeping? It may affect your memory later on

Feb 14, 2012

The amount and quality of sleep you get at night may affect your memory later in life, according to research that was released today and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New ...

Older people may need less sleep, study finds

Jul 24, 2008

Along with all the other changes that come with age, healthy older people also lose some capacity for sleep, according to a new report published online on July 24th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. When asked ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2012
Ditching the encumbrances of family ties and issues of female companionship such as inescapable physical closeness, interactions, physical and emotional acts of love, and sex, dialogs, discourses, arguments,...one is free for UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP!. Time enough for uninterrupted introspection and self-improvement...and perhaps enlightenment; without the unavoidable naggings that every men knows will shorten their already genetically-prescribed short life!
No wonder the greatest mortals in history- Leonardo De Vinci, Tesla, Issac Newton,etc., are childless, partner-less, or lackluster in interpersonal relationships. Their energies were all expended and or channeled to more abstruse goals than rabbit-tious procreation that other male that has a dick does!
As a check: tell me who is the really galaxy-class genius who has a wife and a troupe of kid?? But it also inferred that you can't get anything for free from uninterrupted sleep from a wench, and giving your mental powers full flight...
Skepticus
5 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2012
All this above assumed that you HAVE A FIRST CLASS BRAIN. Otherwise it's just extraneous time for you ordinary folks to snooze off..!
vlaaing peerd
3 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
How about Einstein, Einstein?
Skepticus
3 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
@v_p
3 children from two wives, not exactly a plentiful crop, isn't it? He did his best works on relativity when apart from his first wife and 3 children, while double-timing with his cousin (his latter wife.)Lackluster attitude towards personal relationship i'd say, consider how much he didn't seem to care much about his off-springs, especially Lieserl.