School Singapore (Duke-NUS) has found that the less a person sleeps, the faster his brain ages. A good amount of sleep is necessary for normal brain and body function, nevertheless we let our busy lives deprive us of the optimum amount of sleep we need. The findings were published in the journal SLEEP, and it also shows that the less you sleep, you are more like to have cognitive decline, including dementia.
Previous researches have shown association of little sleep with worse brain function with age and link of poor sleep with Alzheimer’s biomarker, but this study is the first of its kind to have found direct impact of sleep duration on cognitive functions.
Enlargement of brain ventricles is associated with aging; faster the brain ventricle enlarges, quicker the brain function will decline and chances of developing neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) will increase. The research claims that less sleep is associated with faster ventricle enlargement.
In the study, the participants underwent structural MRI brain scans measuring brain volume and neuropsychological assessments testing cognitive functions every two years. The researchers also recorded their sleep through a questionnaire. Those who slept fewer hours showed faster ventricle enlargement and their cognitive performance declined rapidly.
According to Dr. June Lo, the lead author and a Duke-NUS Research Fellow, at least 7 hours a day sleep is essential for adults, which seems to be the best spot for optimal performance on computer based cognitive tests. In the near future, he is planning to carry out researches to determine the amount of sleep necessary for cardio-metabolic and long term brain health.
Portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici by Jacopo Pontormo. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image from World Gallery of Art at http://www.wga.hu