Lack of sleep may age brain
New research published in the journal Sleep suggests that for adults 55 years an older, every hour of reduced sleep resulted in more expansion of brain ventricles, a process associated with cognitive decline. The ventricles are a series of interconnected, fluid-filled spaces in the core of the forebrain and brain stem and their expansion has been identified as a marker for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain disorders.
To conduct their study, researchers from Duke-NUS Graduate School in Singapore analyzed 66 aging Chines adults, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain volume. The study participants were also given assessments every two years to test their cognitive function. A questionaire was used to record their sleeping habits.
The researchers found that for every hour of reduced sleep duration, they found an incremental annual expansion of brain ventricles and an annual incremental decline in cognitive performance.
In the study’s conclusion, researchers ruled out inflammatory effects as a cause for the brain atrophy. They said they hope the results will help make older people more aware of the impact of sleep–or lack thereof–on their mental health.