Shorter sleep may speed brain aging

Photo credit:Reuters

Are you getting enough sleep? A new study once again shows just how important sleep is for your memory and cognitive functioning. Lack of sleep can actually cause structural changes in the brain, which may accelerate a little faster with age.

The lead author of the study published in the journal Sleep, Dr. June Lo, of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, explains: “Among older adults, sleeping less will increase the rate their brain ages and speed up the decline in their cognitive functions.” She points out that the findings apply to younger adults as well.

Dr. Lo acknowledges that sleep deprivation is a problem we all face: “Many people think that sleep is something you can sacrifice if you have work to do, a game to watch, etc. Therefore, insufficient sleep is so common that CDC has announced this as a public health epidemic.”

It is not known for sure why inadequate sleep causes brain changes. But one theory raised by Dr. William Kohler, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute, is that mice studies indicate the body uses sleep time to remove waste from the brain.

So how can you ensure a good night’s sleep? Dr. Kohler suggests: “Avoid napping during the day, have a firm routine as far as going to bed at the same time, get up at the same time and try to ensure that we get to sleep by following good sleep hygiene techniques.” He says that means avoiding alcohol and tobacco before bedtime, sleeping on a comfortable mattress and making sure the room is dark and relatively quiet.

Is this a good reminder to you to start getting a better night’s sleep?

Reuters, 7/10/14

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