Sleep Makes You Brainy - Literally!
A recent study, published in an online October edition of the prestigious academic journal Neurology suggests that people who have trouble sleeping may also experience quicker shrinkages of their brain mass.
The study in question was conducted by several researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Oslo, Norway. It involved 147 adult subjects, aged twenty to eighty-four, whose sleep patterns were analyzed with the aid of MRI results and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. The participants had their sleep hygiene habits evaluated and also undertook two brain scans, with a three and a half year distance between them. The research results revealed that 35 per cent of the subjects slept poorly. The same segment also displayed reduced volumes of some major areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the parietal area. People over the age of 60 experienced the most rapid and evident declines in brain volume during the period researched for the study.
The leading author of the study, Claire E. Sexton, notes that the exact nature of the correlation between brain shrinkage and sleep quality has not been revealed by the study. In fact, the decrease in brain volume might negatively impact sleeping patterns and the quality of slumber. According to the researcher cited above, people who have trouble sleeping may already suffer from brain shrinkage, for completely different reasons than those explored by the study.
The same researcher explained that the results of the study should not constitute cause for too great concern. In other words, people who do find it hard to get a good night's sleep don't necessarily have to schedule an appointment for a brain scan right away. Sexton explained to Forbes that brain shrinkage is determined by numerous factors, including a sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol levels. The study simply goes to show that sleep also plays a major part in neurological healthfulness, and that sleeping disorders treatments could represent a new way of promoting brain health.
This study is a continuation of past scientific work, which established connections between brain mass volume declines and such diverse factors as one's immune system, dementia, and many others. This, of course, doesn't mean that if you sleep poorly you have to worry that your brain is shrinking. It may be the case that the correlation alluded to by these recent results are coincidental. Further scientific exploration is needed, before we can be absolutely sure.