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Disrupted sleep in your 30s and 40s linked to memory and thinking issues in later life


Sleep disruptions have been linked to cognitive problems later in life, according to a new study.


People in their 30s and 40s who have sleep disorders may be more likely to have memory and thinking problems later in life, according to a new study.

The researchers found that brief, repetitive sleep disruptions in midlife were linked to worse cognitive function 11 years later.

They found, however, no association between worse cognitive function and sleep duration or self-reported sleep quality.

“Our findings suggest that the association between sleep quality and cognition may become important as early as middle age,” the researchers wrote.

The study was published Wednesday in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It included more than 500 participants who were followed for more than a decade.

More than half of the participants were women and about 44% were black, but one limitation of the study was that, due to the small sample size, they could not fully account for gender or racial differences.

Participants had an average age of 40 and slept an average of six hours. They wore a wrist monitor for three consecutive days on two occasions a year apart to calculate averages.

They also reported their sleep in a diary, completed a sleep quality survey, and took memory and thinking tests.

“Most previous studies have examined the association between sleep disturbances and cognitive impairment in late life. This is the first study to suggest that the association between sleep quality and cognition may become evident as early as middle age,” Yue Leng, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and author, told Euronews Next of study.

Leng added that sleep fragmentation rather than sleep duration was “associated with worse cognition among middle-aged white and black men and women.”

This means that “sleep quality is important for cognitive health already in middle age.”

Sleep fragmentation was measured as restlessness during sleep, based on the sum of time spent moving and time spent immobile.

Sleep disorders are linked to Alzheimer’s

After accounting for confounding factors such as age, gender, race and education, the researchers found that people with the most disturbed sleep were more than twice as likely to have cognitive problems than those with the least disturbed sleep.

In a separate statement, Leng emphasized that “because signs of Alzheimer’s disease begin to accumulate in the brain several decades before symptoms begin, understanding the connection between sleep and cognition early in life is critical to understanding the role of sleep problems as a risk”. disease factor”.

Several studies have found that sleep disorders may be linked to an increased risk of cognitive problems in older adults. One published study in the journal Sleep in 2013 linked sleep fragmentation in older adults to the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Researchers have too previously connected sleep duration, such as sleeping less than five or six hours a night, to the risk of dementia for older adults.

Sleep disorders in middle age, the researchers of this latest study noted, could be caused by physiological processes such as menopause or by psychosocial factors such as work stress.

They added that there is a lack of research “on both objective and subjective sleep, both duration and quality, and cognition in midlife.”


“Further research is needed to evaluate the link between sleep disturbances and cognition at different stages of life and to identify whether there are critical periods of life when sleep is more strongly associated with cognition,” Leng said in a statement.

“Future studies may open up new opportunities for preventing Alzheimer’s disease in later life.”

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