Getting a good night’s sleep is needed to maintain your health, but for many of us, it can be difficult.
MedlinePlus noted that 25 percent of people in the United States report having occasional sleeping problems. An additional 10 percent report having chronic sleep problems.
If you do not get a good night’s sleep, you may feel some of the effects the next morning, such as lower energy levels, irritability and fatigue.
Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Getting good sleep during those hours has an impact on certain cognitive functions.
For example, when we are sleeping, our brains go through a process called memory consolidation. During consolidation, information we have learned during the day becomes long-term memories.
Our quality of sleep can impact that process. Harvard Health Publications noted that individuals who slept after learning a task performed better in studies compared to individuals who did not sleep after learning.
As a result, not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on your brain health. But getting too much sleep can also have a negative impact.
HealthDay News reported that in a study using data from over 15,000 women, they found too little or too much sleep caused the participants’ brains to “age” by two years.
The women included were from the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study and were followed over 14 years starting when the women were middle-aged.
The researchers found that women who were not getting enough sleep (less than five hours a night) or were getting too much sleep (nine or more hours a night) performed worse on cognitive tests compared to women who slept seven hours a night.
This is not the only study that has found a connection between poor sleep and affected cognition. One such study was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, which included 298 women, who had an average age of 82 years.
At the beginning of the study, none of these women had dementia. The researchers gave the participants an overnight sleep apnea test, and found over a third had the sleep disorder.
Reuters Health reported that when the researchers tested the women five years later, 45 percent of the women who had sleep apnea developed problems with their memory and thinking, compared to 31 percent of the women who did not have sleep apnea.
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Sleeping Difficulty. Web. 31 July 2012
Harvard Health Publications. Importance of Sleep: Six Reasons Not to Scrimp on Sleep. Web. 31 July 2012
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Web. 31 July 2012
HealthDay News. Poor Sleep May Age Your Brain. Web. 31 July 2012
Reuters Health. Sleep Apnea Linked to Memory Decline, Dementia. Web. 31 July 2012
Reviewed July 31, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith