According to research conducted by a freshman from the University of California, people with sleep problems in their thirties and forties may experience memory and thinking issues as early as a decade later. The study found that interrupted sleep during these years led to a significantly higher likelihood of cognitive or information processing problems in middle age. Assistant professor Yue Leng, the first author of the study, emphasized that the quality of sleep, rather than the quantity, is crucial for cognitive health in middle age.
The research noted that signs of Alzheimer’s disease begin to accumulate in the brain several decades before symptoms appear. Quality sleep is essential for brain health as it strengthens memory, regulates mood, and cleans waste products from the brain. Previous studies have found a higher risk of developing dementia among people who sleep poorly, but these studies have largely focused on older individuals.
The new study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 526 participants with an average age of 40, who were followed for 11 years. The study investigated both the duration and quality of the participants’ sleep using activity bracelets and sleep diaries. The research found that those in the interrupted sleep group were more than twice as likely to perform poorly on cognitive tasks a decade later, even after accounting for age, gender, ethnic background, and education.
One limitation of the study is the small number of subjects, which prevented the researchers from drawing proper conclusions about differences between genders or ethnic groups. More comprehensive research is necessary to fully understand the connections between sleep and cognitive health, especially in middle age.