Sleep, Thinking, and Aging

Posted on February 18, 2015

Photo: flickr

benefits of sleep lead naturally to the speculation that sleep may help older adults avoid the cognitive declines that come along with aging. One possibility is that older adults who suffer from sleep difficulties decline faster than those who don’t. Another possibility is that regular sleep throughout life is associated with lower levels of problems.

There are many different studies using different methods to study sleep and potential factors that might affect it.

First, the relationship between sleep and improved thinking is strongest earlier in life and gets weaker later. A good night’s sleep helps young adults to learn better the next day. Sleep also helps young adults to consolidate (or solidify) memories from the day before more than it helps older adults. Middle-aged adults show smaller effects of sleep on learning, and older adults show almost no relationship between sleep and learning at all.

Sleep deprivation studies display how it generally hurts thinking performance, but these effects are much stronger in younger adults and small or even non-existent in older adults.

Of course, part of the difficulty with studying sleep in older adults is that older adults generally need less sleep than younger adults, and the older adults who get the most sleep tend to be those who are sick and whose bodies are fighting off illness.

A particularly interesting result is that the quality of sleep in middle age influences cognitive health in old age. Indeed, one of the studies in this sample measured sleep quality of adults in their 40s and followed up with them 28 years later.

Putting all of this together, then, it seems that sleep is most important in younger people and middle-aged adults.

Click on the link below to read the full article

Category(s):Aging & Geriatric Issues, Sleep Disorders

Source material from Ulterior Motives