Health: Sleep Studies

Need an excuse to go to bed a few hours earlier? New research conducted by European scientists worked to find links between insomnia and brain volume. Researchers had 147 adults aged between 20 and 84 and took a MRI scan of each participant’s brain followed by another scan 3 ½ years later. They hoped to find changes that could connect lack of sleep to brain atrophy. A questionnaire given to participants found that a whopping 35% of them met the criteria for poor sleep health and those who indicated sleep problems typically had a more rapid decline in brain volume. This is not the first study to indicate that a lack of sleep can lead to brain health problems. In fact, poor sleep patterns have been proven to lead to serious brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia. “We know that a lack of sleep can lead to all kinds of problems,” explained Dr. Neal Maru, a neurologist and sleep specialist with Integrated Sleep Services in Alexandria, Virginia, who is not associated with the study. Though the data is helpful, researchers are still left with a catch-22: “The problem is, we really don’t know what comes first,” Maru said. “Is it a sleep problem that causes the atrophy (wasting away of a body part), or is it the atrophy that causes the sleep problems? That’s a question we need to sort out.”

 Contributor: Phoebe Roe

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