Extreme sleep durations may affect brain health in later life

May 1, 2014

A new research study led by Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May, shows an association between midlife and later life sleeping habits with memory; and links extreme sleep durations to worse memory in later life. The study suggests that extreme changes in sleep duration from middle age to older age may also worsen memory function.

"Sleep Duration In Midlife and Later Life In Relation to Cognition: The Nurses' Health Study," led by Elizabeth Devore, ScD, instructor in medicine in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH found that women who slept five or fewer hours, or nine or more hours per day, either in midlife or later life, had worse , equivalent to nearly two additional years of age, than those sleeping seven hours per day. Women whose changed by greater than two hours per day over time had worse memory than women with no change in sleep duration.

This study was the first to evaluate associations of sleep duration at midlife and later life, and change in sleep duration over time, with memory in 15,263 participants of the Nurses' Health Study. Participants were female nurses, aged 70 or older and were free of stroke and depression at the initial cognitive assessment.

"Given the importance of preserving memory into later life, it is critical to identify modifiable factors, such as sleeping habits, that may help achieve this goal," Devore stated. "Our findings suggest that getting an 'average' amount of sleep, seven hours per day, may help maintain memory in later life and that clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should be examined for the prevention of cognitive impairment."

Specifically, researchers report that:

  • Extreme sleep durations may adversely affect memory at older ages, regardless of whether they occur at mid-life or later-life.
  • Greater changes in sleep duration appear to negatively influence memory in older adults.
  • Women with sleep durations that changed by two or more hours per day from midlife to later life performed worse on memory tests than women with no change in sleep duration, equivalent to being one to two years older in age, compared to those whose sleep duration did not change during that time period.

"These findings add to our knowledge about how sleep impacts memory," said Devore. "More research is needed to confirm these findings and explore possible mechanisms underlying these associations."

Explore further: TV viewing time linked to sleep duration in children

Related Stories

TV viewing time linked to sleep duration in children

March 12, 2014
(HealthDay)—For children, television viewing time is inversely associated with sleep duration, according to a study published online March 10 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Study supports detrimental effects of television viewing on sleep in young children

April 14, 2014
A study following more than 1,800 children from ages 6 months to nearly 8 years found a small but consistent association between increased television viewing and shorter sleep duration. The presence of a television in the ...

Studies find new links between sleep duration and depression

January 31, 2014
A genetic study of adult twins and a community-based study of adolescents both report novel links between sleep duration and depression. The studies are published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

Shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality linked to Alzheimer's disease biomarker

October 21, 2013
Poor sleep quality may impact Alzheimer's disease onset and progression. This is according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who examined the association between sleep ...

Poor sleep may age your brain

July 16, 2012
(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.

Adverse changes in sleep duration are associated with lower cognitive scores in middle-aged adults

May 1, 2011
A study in the May 1 issue of the journal Sleep describes how changes in sleep that occur over a five-year period in late middle age affect cognitive function in later life. The findings suggest that women and men who begin ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.