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How disrupted sleep can cause memory and thinking problems

A new study has found that people who have disrupted sleep in their 30s and 40s may be more likely to have memory and thinking problems a decade later

Often stress, overthinking and anxious thoughts can disrupt sleep and affect overall well-being.(Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 04.01.2024  |  03:09 PM IST

It’s well-known that a good sleep cycle is key for physical as well as mental health. But often stress, overthinking, and anxious thoughts can disrupt sleep and affect overall well-being. Expanding on this, a new study has found that people who have disrupted sleep in their 30s and 40s may be more likely to have memory and thinking problems a decade later.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, examined the duration and quality of sleep to better understand how it affected cognitive functions. The study involved 526 participants who wore a wrist activity monitor for three consecutive days on two occasions, about one year apart, a press statement explained. They slept for six hours on average.

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Furthermore, participants reported bedtimes and wake times in a sleep diary and completed a sleep quality survey with scores ranging from zero to 21, with higher scores indicating poorer sleep quality, the statement revealed. The findings showed that 239 people, or 46%, reported poor sleep with a score greater than five.

Among the 175 people with the most disrupted sleep, 44 had poor cognitive performance 10 years later. Even after adjusting for age, gender, race, and education, people who had the most disrupted sleep were more than twice as likely to have poor cognitive performance when compared to those with the least disrupted sleep, the statement revealed.

As signs of Alzheimer's disease start to accumulate in the brain decades before symptoms begin, it’s crucial to understand the relationship between sleep and cognition earlier in life. Hence, understanding the role of sleep problems as a risk factor for the disease is important, the researchers wrote in the study. “Our findings indicate that the quality rather than the quantity of sleep matters most for cognitive health in middle age," study author Yue Leng said in the statement.

Previous studies have shown how irregular sleep patterns can have significant associations with health issues. For instance, a 2023 study, published in the journal Neurology in December, found that irregular sleep habits could lead to a higher risk of dementia. 

These studies indicate the importance of good sleep and how it can affect our physical and mental health.

Also read: How irregular sleep patterns could increase dementia risk