Poor Sleep Means More Than Feeling Tired – Association with Brain Atrophy

A new study published on September 3 in Neurology and reported on Medscape shows that poor sleep quality may actually lead to brain atrophy. Using 147 people ranging from 20 to 84 years in age, researchers submitted participants to MRI scanning over several years. Sleep quality was measured by a self-administered exam. Additional testing parameters included physical activity, BMI and blood pressure. The results were as follows:

  • 35% of participants met the criteria for “poor sleep”.
  • Poor sleep quality correlated to decreased brain volume in an area located within the right superior frontal cortex
    • Correlated to shorter sleep duration, lower efficiency, and increased latency
  • Poor sleep was associated with atrophy of the frontal, temporal and parietalcortices.
    • Such traits are linked with reduced memory and cognitive functioning
  • More significant in older adults, but association present in participants under 60 years of age as well
  • Differences in physical activity, BMI and blood pressure could not account for any of the changes

Further research will need to determine whether poor sleep is the cause of brain atrophy or a result of brain atrophy. However, such research could also shed light onto various diseases of cognitive decline.

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