Sleep duration may modify memory in later life, study finds
Article date: 1 May 2014
Many studies have been done around sleep duration, looking at the optimal hours for shut-eye and the effect that certain sleeping patterns can have on people's physical and mental wellbeing.
Now, a new study led by Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has suggested that extreme sleep durations - that is, too little or too long - during mid and later life could have an affect on an individual's memory as they get older.
The research paper - entitled 'Sleep Duration In Midlife and Later Life In Relation to Cognition: The Nurses' Health Study' - was based on a study of 15,263 women. It found that those who slept for nine or more, or five or fewer, hours a night in mid or later life had a worse memory than those who had consistently got seven hours of kip.
According to the results, the deterioration in cognitive function was equivalent to adding two years in age to the respective women's lives.
Interestingly, it was also noted that extreme changes in the length of sleep also had an affect, with those whose sleep patterns changed by more than two hours per night over time having the same problems as those who slept too much or too little.
Elizabeth Devore, instructor in medicine in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH, commented on the importance of the findings in understanding mental decline in older age.
"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," she said. "Clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should be examined for the prevention of cognitive impairment."
The expert went on to say that more studies are now needed to substantiate these findings and also to garner more insight into why this is the case.
Published shortly before the BWH findings, another study recently revealed that tart cherry juice could help those struggling with insomnia to get a better night's sleep.
According to Louisiana State University scientists, drinking the juice twice a day - in the morning and evening - for a fortnight was found to boost sleep duration by almost an hour and a half in older individuals experiencing such problems.