Extreme sleep: Change in durations may affect brain health in later life

May 1, 2014 |

A new research study led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May, shows an association between midlife and later life sleeping habits with memory; and links extreme sleep durations to worse memory in later life. The study suggests that extreme changes in sleep duration from middle age to older age may also worsen memory function.

“Sleep Duration In Midlife and Later Life In Relation to Cognition: The Nurses’ Health Study,” led by Elizabeth Devore, ScD, instructor in medicine in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH found that women who slept five or fewer hours, or nine or more hours per day, either in midlife or later life, had worse memory, equivalent to nearly two additional years of age, than those sleeping seven hours per day. Women whose sleep duration changed by greater than two hours per day over time had worse memory than women with no change in sleep duration.

This study was the first to evaluate associations of sleep duration at midlife and later life, and change in sleep duration over time, with memory in 15,263 participants of the Nurses’ Health Study. Participants were female nurses, aged 70 or older and were free of stroke and depression at the initial cognitive assessment.


“Given the importance of preserving memory into later life, it is critical to identify modifiable factors, such as sleeping habits, that may help achieve this goal,” Devore stated. “Our findings suggest that getting an ‘average’ amount of sleep, seven hours per day, may help maintain memory in later life and that clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should be examined for the prevention of cognitive impairment.”

Specifically, researchers report that:

  • Extreme sleep durations may adversely affect memory at older ages, regardless of whether they occur at mid-life or later-life.
  • Greater changes in sleep duration appear to negatively influence memory in older adults.
  • Women with sleep durations that changed by two or more hours per day from midlife to later life performed worse on memory tests than women with no change in sleep duration, equivalent to being one to two years older in age, compared to those whose sleep duration did not change during that time period.

“These findings add to our knowledge about how sleep impacts memory,” said Devore. “More research is needed to confirm these findings and explore possible mechanisms underlying these associations.”

91 Responses to Extreme sleep: Change in durations may affect brain health in later life

  1. u14007739 May 6, 2014 at 2:58 am #

    A million dollar question one may ask after reading these news is, does this affect man as it does women? If so I am about to initiate a 7 hour sleep program which, based on this blog would ensure me on memory loss. I only hope that everyone is taking this into considerations, because no one wants to loss their memories of all the good and some of the bad times of their lives. Extreme long and short sleeps are not healthy.

  2. 11208628 Amos Monageng May 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    This article discuss how individual memory could be affect by the change in duration of sleeping hours. But it’s not only sleeping hours that can have positive or negative impact on the brain, therefore I question the accuracy of this article because they researched only a specific gender. Again what about other factor that can have impact on individuals brain? Those factors could be stress for negative impact and execising for the positive impact. Those factors they must be controlled in the sample that is going to be tested and again the sample should be mentally fit for the accuracy. It is advisable for sleeping at least seven hours but not necessarily that if not then you will have worse memory at later stage.

  3. 14032491 May 5, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    It is very important to have healthy sleeping habits and this is something I have always been taught by my mum. However, I never understood why and I am sure she does not know this either but I am happy I do now. Sleep is very important to me as I really cannot function if I have not slept atleast 7 to 8 the night before. If I change my sleeping habits then my whole body plays up. This is because it ruins your biological clock which is set by your normal living ways. I am intrigued by this article and will definitely make sure I do not put my body through such radical change in sleeping hours.

  4. u14081017 May 5, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    I find this article very informative and it also extends my fundamental knowledge.I am a person who always changes sleeping,sometimes i sleep few hours and i will woke up feeling dizzy and sometimes i sleep a lot and i will woke up feeling very tired but if i sleep about 7 to 8 hours my mind will be refreshed when i woke up.I am very grateful that they post this article as it is helping me to be aware of my own health and to prevent myself from getting hypersomnia(which causes extreme sleeping during the day and long periods of sleep at night) caused by long hours of sleep.This article also helped me to quit sleeping less hours and let my body rest and the damaged cells to be repaired.As i was reading previous comments i have learnt that dreams are a necessary part of commiting short-term memory to long-term memory which i find it very helpful for public to start sleeping about 7 or 8 hours.

    Despite that i still don’t understand because psychologically it doesn’t matter if i slept about 7 hours or not,as we are all different and we have different sleeping patterns.Our body determines our sleeping durations,some people can sleep less than 7 hours and they can be able to function while others needs more than 7 hours to be able to function.

    As this article is one-sided my question is that,does this sleeping duration also affects males?

  5. Kegomoditswe (14094500) May 5, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    This is indeed a great article one of its own kind and very informative.
    this affects quite a good fraction of students including myself.
    I would like to question the scientific methods carried out in this study, It would be quite great if this would benefit all reference classes. Bloggers should consider posting informative articles which are not gender based

  6. Kegomoditswe (14094500) May 5, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    This is one article of a kind, so fascinating and informative. This affects a good fraction of students. I would like to question the hypothetical analysis of this study, It would be informative to all reference classes if only it was not gender based.

  7. Joseph u14170796 May 5, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    The post is talking about the bad impacts of other sleeping habits that affects memories of women in the long-run. This research will help women to regulate their sleeping duration for their health memories in their later lives. This post will save the lives of many women because many people suffer from depression and some are dying of stroke, and this condition might be the cause.This will also increase the life expectancy of women. But this post is only talking about impacts of bad sleeping habits in women, what about men?.Does that means that men are also affected in the same way as women or in a different way or it totally does not affect them?.

  8. u14182182 May 5, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Health sleep habits can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having ” sleep hygiene,” that is why your sleep duration now affect your memory in later age. Sticking to the same bedtime and wake up time, this helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night the research state that.

  9. Jabulani u14373671 May 4, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Some things though are not worth taking risk for because we are trying to “rake care” of what might possible happen in the future. I do not think it is ideal to conclude by just taking a look at such evidence. Remember people have different duties on daily basis,others are doctors and others are managers and these jobs challenge people differently in terms of their intellectually capacity. so i wonder if that was taken into consideration during those investigation?

  10. Karla Grobler 12374972 May 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I find this article very informative and will definitely start being more aware of my own sleeping habits. The article makes complete sense to me, if you get the right amount of sleep you feel “fresher” and your brain functions better. I think that if sleep can help us remember for longer we should definitely do it because it is such an easy thing to do. I look forward to reading about further research done on this topic and seeing what they find.

  11. 14025303 Christelle May 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    My question would be, does the change in sleep, let say during the week and weekends, affect the short-term memory? Why I ask is, when I read this article/blog it came to my attention that what the researchers found is true. I experienced it a few times with a family member. But the family member changes her sleep patterns between week and weekends. During the week, she would get less that 7 hours of sleep and during the weekend she would get more than 7 hours of sleep. She forgot a few things, and not just small things, but important things as well. Therefor I would go with the research results, but I do believe that they should test it on woman of all ages, as well as on men. And I also would say that they should dig deeper in finding why does the change in sleep periods affect the memory.

  12. Nomvula Mbambo 14169402 May 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    This is a very serious issue because a lot of women there do not know how their unregulated sleeping hours can affect them in the near future. Most of them have unregular sleeping hours because they are trying to balance their lives. This is a very sad issue

  13. 14340799 May 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    I think this topic is one of great interest to many scholars. Sleeping routines have changed for many in an attempt to increase working times for our hectic lifestyles. no-the-less this topic opens up our eyes to the after effects of our current actions.

  14. Euphemia(14124875) May 4, 2014 at 12:38 pm #


  15. Euphemia(14124875) May 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    whaow! am i really heading for disaster?
    now this i didn’t know until this very day, this is so informative. so basically the hours we use for sleeping can either keep us healthy and well or affect us dismally in the future.

    sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning, it is also important for the correct functioning of the brain. but why is this study based on women only?..scary, but nevertheless, i have learned a lot from this passage.

  16. L Venter - 14369240 May 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    An interesting topic. The theory holds a lot of promise yet it needs to be more thoroughly tested. The theory’s validity would be greater if they shifted their investigation onto male subjects as well. I’ve read that the brain goes through a selection and storage process during sleep. Maybe irregular or extreme sleep patterns affect the “selection and storage” process? Just a thought. I guess time will tell.

  17. u14022339: Alexandra Law May 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    I strongly agree with the information being given to us in this article, although I also agree that more research needs to be done so people can fully understand why sleep is extremely important to human beings to be able to function on a daily basis. I can relate to this article, as I’m sure anyone studying can, before a test a good nights sleep makes all the difference the next day. Your understanding of the work is better as well as your memory of what you have studied the previous days before. But adequate sleep provides us with more than just a top notch memory. Firstly the obvious, getting enough sleep makes us feel fresh and confident the next day and also provides us with energy and focus to survive the day. Sleep helps us with our emotional well-being, when you are sleep deprived you are more likely to feel down or depressed. As stated in the article, people who sleep longer live longer and this is true. Our bodies need to relax and reboot and sleep allows us to do this. Sleep deprivation puts extra stress on our bodies which will in the future cause our bodies to completely shut down sooner. Also people who sleep less, have a higher blood pressure level than those who sleep more, resulting in health risks in the future. Our bodies produce growth hormones when we are asleep and that is why sleep is so important for our growth. We need sleep to function in daily life, research proves this but most importantly our bodies prove this better than any research. Sleep for 4-5 hours one night and 8 hours the next, you are guaranteed to feel better after a good nights sleep.

  18. Euphemia(14124875) May 4, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    whaow! Am I really heading for disaster?
    i never knew how important is sleeping for the prescribed hours was until this very day. Now this is informative though a bit

  19. Van Zyl (u14346347) May 4, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Being a species reliant on sleep, as we are, research into sleep and how it could possibly affect our daily lives is quite obviously important.

    It is of personal importance to me seeing as I plan to enter “later-life” in the future, and this research has possibly provided me with a way to make it more memorable, so to speak. I’m glad there were over 15000 participants that took part in the study, as the large number would effectively eliminate any biases that may occur in the results due to individual participants. That said, the 15000 participants were all female, and all nurses, and due to these factors, there hasn’t really been a randomized control trail to establish these results.

    While the research may prove beneficial in the future, I agree with your last statement that more research is needed, preferably with a greater difference in participants concerning their gender and occupation.

  20. Liezl van Niekerk (u14114683) May 4, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    I absolutely love this article, it is very interesting! Can’t wait to hear what further studies will reveal on this matter. Now we know just how important time management is and why we hit a blank after studying all night and trying to write test on 2 hours sleep…

  21. Chabalala (13090527) May 4, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    I find this very related to my life. While I in high school, I used to sleep around 7 hours per day. After finishing grade 12 in 2012, I took a gap year in the year 2013. During my gap year I used to sleep more than 9 hours per day. Now that I’m back to school, I sleep less than 5 hours per day, meaning I changed by greater than 2 hours. After reading this I feel worried, I might have the worst brain in the future.

  22. Park (u14013836) May 4, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    I find this article very intriguing; along with unexpected results.
    Until now, I had only expected shortage of sleep to cause problem in later life. However, after reading this article, I realized that the excess of sleep can also cause memory loss in later life. This is a completely new concept for me and I am shocked in a satisfying way.

    It would be even more wonderful if they could research further on whether the harmful effects differ significantly between shortage and excess of sleep.

  23. u14318980 May 4, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    There have been studies stating the amount of sleep one requires throughout their life – that babies sleep an average of 16 hours and an adult an average of 8. The loss of memory is seen as an almost natural process of growing old; however, we hardly took the time to include sleeping patterns into this process. This study in particular is extremely interesting – stating that our cognitive memory diminishes in older life due to our sleeping patterns. It would be interesting to test this not only on older women but also on adolescents and men.

  24. u13099133 May 4, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    I did not know 5 or less hours of sleep or 9 and over would impact memory that much. I do agree with the claim made.

    Furthermore,not to mention much, but I have seen this happen to one of the people I know. I konw this is just one out of so many but it is still an event. It has been going on for years and this person’s memory is imparied to the point where common knowlege is easily foegotten. This person has been sleeping for excessive hours of the day for years now. I had been wondering about this person’s state and with the help of this article I now have some ensight of the problem.

    I do hope there is a solution to help people who are already affected.

  25. JD u14077486 May 4, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    Interesting! Yet one can’t help to wonder why this has such an effect and why the effect is delayed?
    Then what about brain stimulation. I do believe it is true, but doubt that it would affect one’s memory so much. I look forward to this theory being tested…

  26. u14316073 May 4, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    The information expressed by this article is definitely very useful it makes me start to reconsider many aspects in life that affect by sleeping pattern. When most of us were growing up we are told that we need about 9 hours of sleep but no one ever explained the effects of moving from being forced to sleep for 9 hours to sleeping for 3 hours are.

    A normal child’s behaviour is that you sleep for long hours when you are a baby, then you grow older and begin to resent sleep. When you become a teenager sleep becomes your best friend and with time you sleep less and less, mainly because your academic success is far too demanding. After reading this blog I then became curious, does that mean that to some extent all of us lose memory due to the variation in sleep duration throughout our lives? Is it better to start sleeping less at an early age, perhaps 7 hours, to get your body used to it?

  27. Stephane(u14086795) May 4, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    All my life I’ve been told that sleep was important. I have acknowledged this, as sleep is required for proper brain function. Since I follow a strict sleeping regime as a result, this article is a comfort to my future health state.
    However, the study, as a previous commenter stated, seems to have only been done on older woman. Women and men have different sleep patterns as the varying hormones in men and women affect the body and thus the brain. Regardless of this the author has stated that researchers regarded both male and female when researching this aspect, in the conclusion.
    Sleep also contributes to greater mental functioning as a short term advantage.

  28. J.KOEN (u14144124) May 4, 2014 at 2:50 am #

    I agree with the facts that mentioned in this article, that a consistent average amount of sleep should be maintained for an individuals well being. However it is evident that these findings are from research done only on older female participants.
    Thus this leaves a few unanswered questions: will this findings be the same for male participants?; what findings could a younger group of adults from both genders yield?; should environmental and behavioral backgrounds be brought into account?
    Besides the above mentioned such findings as that within the article can be accepted as sensible.

  29. MM 14060745 May 4, 2014 at 2:13 am #

    In response to Nicole’s speculation on whether an average of 7 hours of sleep a week would have the same effect on memory and the body as 7 hours per night over a week, I think that it would not be the same. According to the article, a 2 hour fluctuation in sleeping hours takes a toll on the body and mind. It is believed that visual tasks would be especially vulnerable to sleep loss because iconic memory has short duration and limited capacity (Raidy and Scharff 2005). It is so important that not only women, but all adults ensure that they develop healthy, regular sleeping patterns in order to maintain mental and cognitive in their later years.

  30. u14257662 May 4, 2014 at 2:03 am #

    The whole day busy learning new stuff you will eventually have to sleep in order to recharge your body.During that time it will be processing things you learned throughout the course of the day and that is why for a person studying the night before the test its hard to remember most of the information.Sleeping is good for your health but i agree that overdoing it may have negative impacts on your health depending on the activity level and age.

    My question is for those who sleep long hours even when their bodies did not work too muchstudy too much during the day,do they have some kind of sickness or disorder?

  31. Nicole ( 14018960) May 4, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    This article is very interesting and informative. It is definitely important to get enough sleep for proper function of the brain the next day.

    The research is female based and I think a lot of females would look after their average sleeping hours a night after reading this article. Seven hours sleep a night is quite a challenge being a student but with better time management I think we would be able to obtain seven hours of sleep a night and lower our chances of getting memory loss in the nearby future.

    The despite for the few difference between males and females, I think the average sleeping hours for males would be almost the same as females. It would be interested to find out if sleeping the average seven hours that gives you 49 hours a week will give the same risk for memory loss than getting 49 hours of sleep a week in different unequal quantities over seven days ?

  32. Vasili Moutzouris 14068992 May 3, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    The minimum hours of sleep required for any individual is important for them to be able to function properly the next day. Sleep allows one to rest and recover from one’s daily activities. It has been proven that a good nights rest before a test or exam is essential for your memory. Lack of sleep can make a small task seem huge. Whether lack of sleep alone affects the memory function in the brain of older people is debatable. Many other factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and willingness to stimulate your memory and brain will have a long term effect on how the brain and its memory will function.

  33. Rochelle - 14032211 May 3, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    So many people often spend a lot of their time doing work or spending time with their family and friends instead of taking a nap or getting enough sleep in through the night. Sleep is definitely an important activity in our lives and we often look past it. I will admit that some nights I sleep for 5-6 hours. This can have a bad influence and damage the body in many ways.

    I agree that the older we get the chance of memory loss also gets higher. As we grow older and we continue not getting enough sleep in, our bodies start to change according to the sleep duration, and after a couple of years the body will accept the fact that such little amount of sleep is needed to function. So I agree with 14017386, a nap a day will do wonders.

    My question also is if this is only a gender based problem? And maybe it will be possible to prove it more by testing it with the male gender?

    Remember: “There is only one thing people like that is good for them; a good night’s sleep,” – EW Howe. We should always try to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep in each night. When you are well rested, the whole day will seem much better.

  34. Galaletsang(u14002907) May 3, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    The brain,like any other muscle in the body, needs regular exercise in order to optimize its function. It needs nutrients that will nourish it, intellectual activities/challenges to exercise the memory and problem solving functions, and sufficient rest to rejuvenate and sort out information relating to the entire body ultimately. I completely agree with the notion that irregular sleeping patterns will affect the brain’s function and cause long-term impairment such as memory loss in the later stages of ones life as mentioned in the article. If the brain is not taken good care of when it’s still young and highly active,it will begin to fail you as time goes on.The manner in which a car’s engine is taken care of,for example,will determine its lifespan-same for the brain.Excessive sleep kills the brain cells and as we all know,they are irreplaceable-therefore one should stick to regular,healthy sleeping patterns as part of taking care of the brain in order to continue to optimize its function during the later stages of life.

  35. 14051992(OS Moche) May 3, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    I was immediately captured by the title of the article because I sleep for long durations myself. I am an 18 year old female and would like to know if I too will suffer the same effects in my older ages even if I change my sleeping habits now. I too would like to know why the research was focussed mainly on women and if the fact that women experience mostly temporary memory loss during menopause was taken into consideration. Perhaps it would further validate the results if the same research was done on men with all the other parameters remaining the same. If men are excluded from these results, what would be a suitable biological explanation that substantiates their immunity to memory loss in old age?

  36. Nomvula Mbambo 14169402 May 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Indeed this article is interesting and very informative but I am still surprised why does it affect women mostly because from my point of view men are the ones who do not have regular sleeping patterns

  37. K. Hlabisa, 14126886 May 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Sleep is important for brain functionality and we all love it. However, being a BSc student means that you might have to sacrifice a few hours of sleep!

    I find it very interesting that changing the amount of sleep at midlife has negative implications upon our lives later on. Many studies based on sleep have been conducted and conclusions have been drawn that not having enough sleep impairs concentration, affects the mood and general daily performance. Now, knowing that depriving yourself of sleep one time and then catching up later poses a greater threat (in terms of memory) when you’re older, is even more alarming!

    One should appreciate such studies, as, they continue to enlighten us about factors that put our well-being on the line; that we should do something about eliminating such negative factors in order to have a smooth and prolonged life.

  38. u13285549 May 3, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    This is a great caution for us youth and it shows how essential science is to our lives, I think most of us who went through this article will start avoiding this kinds of consequences and educate those who does not know about them. However, in some circumstances we find that it is impossible to sleep those healthy hours especially to us youth, so if you still in your twenties does it mean we still safe to sleep less or more and still don’t experience those consequences or how is
    “midlife” define in this article?

  39. u14182182 May 3, 2014 at 11:03 am #


  40. Mfundo Nyathi (14045967) May 3, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Interesting it is indeed, especially for us as university students because we tend to have variable sleeping patterns. The fact that having a constant sleeping duration is essential for a healthy memory as we get older is interesting. We usually tend to reduce our sleeping hours when it comes to examination time and we don’t take into account that our brains need some rest. We ensure that we feed our brains with so much information, hoping that it is going to grasp every single knowledge and we careless that our brains need some rest. After examinations, we make sure that we catch up on all the sleeping hours we have lost during exam time and we sleep long hours. I honestly thought that I had a healthy sleeping lifestyle but my perspective has changed. After reading this article, I’ve realised that I should adopt a constant sleeping duration in order to stimulate my mind and keep my brain healthy. I am also taking into account that my sleeping patterns at this stage of my life, might have an influence on my memory in the future. Therefore I shall sleep an average of 7 hours from now on.

  41. 14348315 May 3, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Indeed it is a good and also catching article about the effects on how we tend to change our range of sleeping. The way we rest or sleep can define the life that you might have in the future. Some of the disorder that affects us mentally, it is due to the way we tend to sleep..Some people don’t have a fixed sleeping duration and sooner or later they will realize that the were busy shortening their lives but according to the article, scientist are still going to do other research on this kind of mind thrilling aspect were people are noit really clear whether is it true or no

  42. U14007739 May 3, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Does this affect Man as well, because if so it would mean no more short sleeps during week days and long sleeps in the weekend, i don’t want to experience memory loss. thinking about it now I can see how such sleeping habits would pose as a threat to people, remember it is the smallest things in ones life that greatly influential which in this case “sleep”. it is nice corrected every now and then.

  43. Rivoningo May 3, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    I always took sleep or resting for granted, i never thought it had so much impact in our lives.All i knew was that getting some rest would help with reducing stress,but i didn’t know that enough rest is also good for memory. This information can help reduce the risk of getting diseases such as Alzhemier

  44. Craigh (14050791) May 3, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    It is widely know that bad habits like drinking, smoking or eating wrong can influence the memory at a later stage, this article tackles the problem from a different angle making people even more aware of how they ought to live a healthy life. Previous bloggers have mentioned the same question: What is the affect on males? And are there any other obvious things we should look at to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

  45. Iwan Sipsma (14067511) May 3, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    This article is especially interesting because it shows how different the male and female bodies are created. This new findings can help women all around the world with the problem of memory loss. This can then help families so that less arguments starts that can snowball into worse arguments that can lead to divorce and maybe death. This may seem harsh but it is the truth, stupid things happen because people don’t like to repeat things. So this findings are very crucial for the every day life. And it would be quite interesting to know if this only effects women or does this type of memory loss happens to men as well?

  46. Nyeleti (u14190894) May 3, 2014 at 4:22 am #

    Very interesting and informative article. It is very essential that one should stick to one sleeping pattern everyday. As this article is gender based, I want to know if this is also applicable to older males.

  47. nempheni s 14038308 May 3, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    since we know that its gender based,well i wanted to know that is it also applicable to older males?

  48. 14017386 May 3, 2014 at 3:27 am #

    It sounds reasonable that the older you get your sleeping habits change and memory loss occurs gradually. During the midlife life period the functions of the total body helps towards accepting changes in sleep duration and can cope with it. The older we get our bodies and brains become less resilient to changes in our lifestyle. At retirement age in other studies it is recommended that the brain needs to be exercised by reading, playing thinking card games such as Bridge. A quick regular nap per day does wonders to the body as would regular exercise. It is thus understandable that when a person is deprived of sleep for long periods that is is more probable to have a detrimental affect on memory. One would go along with what Devore stated: “ getting an average amount of sleep say 7 hours per day may help maintain memory in later life”.

  49. Castyn Winfield 12026795 May 3, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    Research like this can prolong and improve the life of the female population around the world which is why it deserves more attention because it is often the female generation that keep much of what we know as family together today. It is interesting as well as essential for us all to understand the effect of something as taken for granted as sleep, its adverse reactions on the life expectancy and quality of life on us all is life changing. It would have been interesting if this study had been of a broader group across all genders as the differences between the two could have been used to create a more accurate assumption.

  50. Adrian (14050162) May 3, 2014 at 2:47 am #

    Very interesting article, it had always been well documented that incorrect foods and mind altering substances were a key factor in memory loss, but this new research being done on sleeping habits and their effects on memory and memory retention is fascinating. If for argument sake, I, being a male, went my whole adolescence and early adulthood with the incorrect amount of sleep (9 hours an evening) and never changed this routine, would I still be at risk of memory loss? I would be interested to find out.

  51. Henko(14006929) May 3, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    It is fascinating how something so simple as sleep can have an effect on our memory function.But the article is just about female gender, what effect would sleep have on male genders..??And life circumstances would also determine the sleep average of people,is that sleeping average just of the sum total of the hours of the day, or the average of the sum total of hours of the week..??

  52. Rebecca(14013909) May 3, 2014 at 12:36 am #

    I have learnt a lot about the above article since I did not know how much effect our sleep has on our daily behavours and how important it is that we stick to one sleeping time slot and obviously have enough sleep. Though I think we all have our own sleeping preferences just as it is mentioned above about others being able to sleep for long hours whilst others are able to sleep for shorter hours.An informative article indeed.

  53. Nomvula Mbambo 14169402 May 2, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Sleeping is a good thing, it relaxes the mind and the body. But its true that too much of anything is dangerous. Now I understand why most of the people who suffer from Alzheimer is the old age.

  54. Christine u14196264 May 2, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Although I find this article interesting to read and I agree on the fact that we need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day, I still think that this is not the only reason for memory loss and that this information is not very valid on the entire human race because it was only tested on one gender and it was also only tested on nurses. Shouldn’t it also be tested on people in other lines of work? Just to take into consideration that different jobs have different stress levels and working hours and many other factors, which I think can also play a part in memory loss and can differ from person to person, according to how much sleep each individual needs to function the best. Noted though to get enough sleep anyway.

  55. 14008654 FR Ntsitsi May 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Sleep is very important and the amount as well .The research done by Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a good basis to infer a conclusion of how sleep effects one’s memory.With any experiment or data analysis one has to consider other factors which can contribute to the effect .When looking at people’s sleeping patterns and how it effects people’s memory loss in older age ,you also have to keep in mind that there are other factors which lead to memory loss.The person’s life style ,how often they exercise , their socio-economic status ,their relationships as well as sleeping patterns should be taken into consideration when making a generalised statement.
    We are all different and have different meals and different sleeping patterns.What is to be said of people who take naps during the day ,or people who have a 3 hour sleep and then a 4 hour sleep later on .Are these people part of the ‘at -risk’ class for memory loss in older age ? In conclusion as you get older you become more prone to age related conditions ,such as dementia , amnesia ,depression and many more which could be stress related and influence memory ability.There is no determining how much sleep you need but it is clear that people need to know that sleep and the amount of time you sleep could influence you,either now or later in your life.

  56. u14026784 May 2, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    Though change in sleep duration may be due to change in lifestyle. I do however agree that 7 to 8 hours of sleep is the recommended duration but in order to keep a fit mind, brain-stimulating activities like reading are necessary in decreasing the development of cognitive impairment.

  57. u13140346 May 2, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    This study constitutes the first step towards conducting further studies to test the association between cognition and extreme sleep duration (both too little and too much) or changes in sleep duration (exceeding two hours). It is unclear whether all aspects of cognition—memory, comprehension, language production, calculating, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making—were tested, or merely memory that is one aspect thereof. The sample group only included women.
    As Devore correctly states these findings need to be confirmed, preferably by means of a prospective study to prove a cause-effect relationship between sleep duration and cognition in general or memory in particular.
    Such a prospective study would entail instructing the study participants—both men and women—to sleep a specific number of hours, and testing their cognition periodically over years. However, reliance on the recordkeeping of participants constitutes a risk in that sleep patterns can be inaccurately reported, as is potentially also the case with the current study. Further, the controlling of confounders needs to be factored in to ensure that variables—genetic, physiological (illnesses), psychological (stress/trauma) and environmental factors; diet; mental, social and physical activity (exercise) impacting on cognitive processes—are controlled. It is unclear whether these confounders were taken into consideration in the current study.
    Given the global epidemic of dementia with the increasingly ageing population, this study has made a considerable contribution and should be investigated further.

  58. L.Hart (u14051517) May 2, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    I do not entirely agree with the article, since it only focused on one gender and one cause of memory loss – sleep patterns.

    Sleep patterns are not the only factor contributing to memory loss. Memory loss can be minimised through the following methods:
    Learning new traits and skills; physically active lifestyle; well-read and informed about new developments in society; eat a well-balanced diet and social support of loving family and friends.

    The experiment would be more accurate if it was tested on both men and woman; people of different ages and different careers. By doing the experiment on a broader scale the results would help us immensely to understand a more precise cause of memory loss. By researching all the various factors a more truthful solution would be found.

  59. Emma Cook (u13364741) May 2, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    This is a very interesting article and I was very surprised to see that quite a bit of research has been conducted on how sleep patterns affect physiology and psychology in humans. I’m sure everyone is aware that sleep affects how they perform on a day to day basis, when we don’t get enough sleep even simple tasks can be more difficult. I think it is very interesting that you sleep patterns in mid-life can possible affect your memory in later life. I think further testing and research should be done on this concept as conclusive around the board results would be very beneficial to society as preventive maintenance and this study is too specific to be accepted as around the board truth. Although this information is interesting and possibly helpful sleep is a very circumstantial aspect of live no person can maintain consistent sleep patterns as sleep is affected by so many factors.

  60. Sello (14326044) May 2, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    I agree with the article’s point of view because as a person increases his/her sleeping duration, his/her brain functions less as it rests for that certain amount of time thus leading to certain effects such as memory loss occuring more frequently than when he/she was maintaining his/her sleeping duration as the brain then was used to function more at an extended period while it was given less time to rest.

  61. Arnold May 2, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    I did not know that proper sleeping patterns are important

  62. Naude.P.S u14016682 May 2, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    This is an interesting concept whether sleeping are directly responsible for decline in memory. There are several problems with this experiment- It was only done on women in midlife, do we know the women was of the same intellect, how was the intellect established and tested in later life, was texts done in the same time in ministerial cycle. All these and more can affect the results. There are several reasons for the decline in memory and were all of them part or excluded from this experiment? There are also lots of reasons way people sleep less and more thus like extreme work load of loss of loved ones – emotional trauma est. Can it not be these factors that are responsible for the decline in memory and not the amount of sleep? This is however a very small step in understanding way our brains and memory decay at different rates.

  63. u14078024 May 2, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    This is not very surprising due to the fact that a sizable portion of a person’s life is spent sleeping. This article reinforces the idea that sleep is when the body and mind recovers from the trials of the day. Due to sleeps large impact on the recovery of the body and mind it was undoubtedly linked to the maintenance of memory and physical rejuvination.

  64. u14078024 May 2, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    This not very surprising considering that a sizable portion of a person’s life is spent sleeping. This article reinforces the idea that sleep is how the body and mind recover from the trials of the day. By interrupting the basic repair function of the body and mind this would undoubtedly lead to decreasing efficiency of memory and increasing fatigue of the body.

  65. Tiisetso(13082672) May 2, 2014 at 5:00 am #


  66. Miché May 2, 2014 at 3:47 am #

    This research has got me thinking, does the changes in sleeping patterns affect those that are younger than the average middle aged? Because changes in sleeping patterns occur way before people hit middle age, so the changes may not be because of the change in sleeping patterns of the elderly, but because of the keeping patterns of when theybwere younger?

    Sleep has always been an important part of growing up, since when you sleep, your body has time to rest and repair, so it makes sense that changes in sleeping patterns could affect the mind.
    The changes in sleeping patterns of those older than myself could change due to many reasons, and because people are so different it is difficult to pinpoint the exact source of the problem, but this research is a step in the right direction.

  67. 14062250 May 2, 2014 at 3:33 am #

    It was shocking to read how a few hours more or less sleep could influence one’s later life so much, especially as I have very extreme changes in sleep duration. But I found the article unrealistic as it is impossible for one to sleep exactly seven hours a day. If one has work to do, it is essential to decrease one’s sleep duration by a few hours and during weekends, he or she will want to catch up on the sleep hours lost. Sadly, the current society and the system in which we live by does not allow such leisure for us to sleep seven hours every day. However, I think further studies should be done so that more people can become aware of the liabilities we are imposing on our brain and try to make realistic changes to protect the memories of future generations.

  68. A.Harris(14058512) May 2, 2014 at 3:17 am #

    This article is intriguing as it extends our fundamental knowledge that an adequate amount of sleep is essential. Although the research conducted in this article was done at a women’s hospital, it would be interesting to know how sleeping patterns affect men and whether there is a direct correlation between how memory of men are affected in comparison to women.

    Adding to Mellisa Geldenhy’s(14227755) answer on why too much sleep is bad for you: A study conducted in 2011 by University of London researchers exhibited that it is possible age your brain by up to seven years by getting to much or too little sleep. If you sleep too much, your body will become accustomed to getting more sleep then required and as a result will constantly feel tired.This can lead to a physical and mental decline.

  69. Ronewa-14182671 May 2, 2014 at 2:24 am #

    Due to what we see happening to our grandparents one ca really agree to the fact that change in sleeping duration really affect memory in old ages. It turn out that when a person grow old they prefer sleep less ours than most people usually do and this seems to really affect their memory badly.

  70. Zane Kroner (14054958) May 2, 2014 at 1:05 am #

    One of the most pressing questions of our time is “how do our brains work ?” This study is just one of many in which our behavior and habits are studied to determine what effect it might have on our brain activity and our capacity to retain information.

    This particular study uses a selective group of nurses with particular sleeping habits and routines and then studies the impact it has on their memory later in their live span. The use of nurses as a study group allows for variation across the group because nurses work difficult hours and their routines are often unsteady.

    During the study only the sleeping habits of women in their middle ages where taken into consideration. My question however is if a change in you sleeping patterns in you childhood or early adolescence has an impact on your memory as you grow older ?

    This study may present important insight to the way we convert information into memory which may further lead to the understanding of the working of our brains.

  71. Yashen Mungaroo-u14104289 May 2, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    From the post we are given the understanding that the process of aging affects the quality and quantity of sleep. It’s interesting to note that this article helps to disprove the common misconception that adults simply don’t need as much sleep. Good sleep habits help balance biological factors that make it harder to attain healthy sleep as we grow older. We are able to assume that sleep habits impact our cognitive abilities, especially in the elderly, which can have a ripple effect and can compromise their quality of life.

  72. Melissa Geldenhuys (14227755) May 2, 2014 at 12:32 am #

    As many of you have pointed out, too little sleep is bad because when you don’t go into REM sleep, your brain isn’t able to re-learn and store what you learned through the day (If anyone would like to know more about REM sleep, you can watch Vsauce’s video “Why do we dream?”).
    I might have an answer to the question of why too much sleep can be bad for you. As Jacques – 14105293 said, the article talks about changes in sleep duration and I am inclined to agree that this must play a role in affecting one’s memory, although I could not strictly find any evidence elsewhere. BUT
    Too much sleep can be a medical disorder that’s called hypersomnia. This disorder causes extreme sleepiness during the day and long periods of sleep at night. With this disorder, taking a nap doesn’t relieve the sleepiness and the symptoms include memory problems. This makes sense, because when you feel groggy and tired, you don’t focus. If you don’t focus, then of course memory will be negatively affected.
    It must be noted that not everyone who sleeps for longer periods at times has hypersomnia. As an article on WebMD points out: “there are people who simply want to sleep a lot.” The main idea seems to be that when you sleep too much or too little, you slow down your brain, you feel tired and you don’t focus and this leads to a weakened memory.

  73. Heinrich Sander - 14090733 May 2, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    I agree that sleep is an important aspect in your everyday life and that it is important to maintain your sleeping pattern or rather to keep it constant as you get older ! But then again I believe that it is almost impossible to maintain your sleeping pattern as you get older due to a ‘busy’ life. Luckily our body’s are magnificent and capable of adapting to changes that occur !

  74. Nomonde (13344260) May 1, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    well this is very interesting maybe because our sleeping duration change every now and then as we move to the next step of depending on the field or career you are in. For example its obvious that when you move fro high school to university you will definitely change your sleeping duration because of the amount of work, then when you get a holiday you want to rest meaning you change your sleeping duration again. So i guess there’s nothing much we can do about this but since we now know the effects we can at least try to maintain the same kind of duration we have most of the time.

  75. Jacques - 14105293 May 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    Patricio Francisco (u14263272) – “it still leaves me confused as to why more than 9 hours of sleep will affect a persons memory negatively. How can this be explained?”

    I agree with you,the article is not clear on this. I understood the following “slept five or fewer hours, or nine or more hours per day” to mean that some nights they slept 5 or fewer hours and then some nights 9 or more hours, seeing as the article is talking about changes in sleep duration. So it’s the change in sleep durations that affect memory. I hope that helps.

    14105188 – Thank you for answering my question.
    As we get older, our bodies and brains become less resilient to changes in our lifestyle. Using that reasoning, it makes sense that it wouldn’t affect younger people as much because their bodies can still compensate for the changes in sleep durations.

  76. 14105188 May 1, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    This blog was interesting to read. Our brains naturally weaken as we get older and our sleep quality decreases. Slow waves that are generated in a brain region called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is a sign of age-related deterioration. Deep sleep helps the brain store and recall new information, that’s why we need up to eight hours of sleep a night. As we get older the quality of our sleep stops the brain from saving any new memories. This could be another reason for memory loss in later life.

  77. Patricio Francisco (u14263272) May 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    I feel that “Jacques – 14105293″ has the most logical explanation. When a person is deprived of sleep, the body will first make up the “deep sleep” component of your sleep at the expense of REM (Rapid Eye Movement), where REM is responsible for processing information and storing memory. Thus, when a person is deprived of sleep for long periods, over time it is more probable to have a detrimental affect on memory since the REM component of sleep is reduced over time. However, while this seems to answer why less than 7 hours sleep affects memory, it still leaves me confused as to why more than 9 hours of sleep will affect a persons memory negatively. How can this be explained?

  78. 14032318 May 1, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    It has been very interesting reading all the comments left by previous readers. Sleep is one of the most vital actions of life. In our early stages of life, lots of sleep is needed due to the fact of internal changes within the body and growth. This is why at least 8 hours of sleep has always been emphasized by many educational workers as well as pediatricians. As our bodies start to reach maturity less sleep is required and by the time university comes, most students are able to survive on 6 hours sleep during the week.
    This is why I believe sleeping routine changes at a young age are not as much a factor as they are as people age into the latter stages of life.
    Hopefully future studies can zone in on certain reasons as to why the memory process is affected as age increases. I think the results will be very interesting and more complex than once thought.

  79. 14005362 May 1, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Although, the information posted in the blog is quite informative, I think this information is quite “one-sided” in a sense that it only takes into consideration the negative impacts of changes in sleep patterns. We should also take into consideration that for other individuals, changes in sleep patterns can also result in very positive impacts.In Agreement with ‘14057192 Trichard’, we should also take into consideration that we are different and ours bodies react to changes such as changes in sleep patterns differently

  80. 14005362 May 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    Although, the information posted in the blog is quite informative, I think this information is quite “one-sided” in a sense that it only takes into consideration the negative impacts of changes in sleep patterns. We should also take into consideration that for other individuals, changes in sleep patterns can also result in very positive impacts.In Agreement with ‘14057192 Trichard’, we should also take into consideration that we are different and ours bodies react to changes such as changes in sleep patterns differently.

  81. M Trichard 14057192 May 1, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    What is interesting to note is that this research concluded these sleep patterns effect individuals in later stages of life.
    The same way we neglect to take care of our bodies at a young age – with smoking, no exercise and a lot of junk food- has a massive effect on our physical well being now, as well as in later stages. Yet this research only covered the effect sleeping patterns have on cognitive function at a later stage, but as some commentators have already pointed out, they can feel the effects of changes in sleep patterns already.
    Research like this is quite interesting as it just reinforces the point that our bodies work optimal in set patterns.

  82. Helet (14145074) May 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    I found this blog entry very interesting but I would like to know why the research is only applicable to people in their midlife and after? What about younger people like students? Students definitely don’t get 7 hours of sleep every night. How would that influence their memories?

  83. 14005311 May 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    I, an individual recently suffering from mild insomnia, find this article really intriguing! in relation to my personal situation, of merely four hours of sleep a night, this article adds as evidence to the result of my lack of sleep.
    In high-school; including extensive athletics training and cardiac-exerting sports, I was able to sleep at the least six hours a night. I managed to excel in my sport, achieve high academics and personally focus for many continuous hours, recalling majority of the information I had learned.
    Now that I am in Varsity and waste two hours of my day driving and spend the rest in lectures, I don’t have the amount of time to participate in as many sports as I previously did, however, without the excessive exertion I find it difficult to fall asleep.
    The lack of sleep has intervened in my studying capabilities tremendously, though I am not tired, I find it extremely difficult to study and worst of recall the knowledge that I thought I had successfully absorbed.

    I have taken a liking to this topic and look forward to further tests and research that needs to be done.

  84. 14056233 May 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    I found this article very informative as I have heard of research about sleeping patterns before but have never heard of exactly how it affects the mind. I now see that sleeping patterns are very important in regard to cognitive function and that the topic should not be taken lightly if a person is serious about their mental health.

  85. Jacques - 14105293 May 1, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Good point, 14054672, findings like this should be made more public, so people can make better decisions about their health.

    The premise is confusing, but it seems to fit with the idea that in most areas, the human body performs at its best when it fits into a routine. Routine gives the body a framework with fewer variables, allowing it to optimize certain processes. By varying the duration of sleep, the body’s circadian rhythm is constantly changing, increasing the variables that the brain has to deal with.
    It is believed that dreams are a necessary part of committing short-term memory to long-term memory. As dreams occur mainly during REM phase of sleep, affecting this will theoretically affect long-term storage of information. With a varying sleep duration, the body is constantly having to adjust its sleep cycles to account for more or less time in REM sleep.

    Does anyone have ideas as to why this could affect older people more?

  86. Melanie May 1, 2014 at 10:31 am #


  87. Hannah - 141 84 771 May 1, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    I find this very interesting and I am quite grateful that I read it. I tend to change the amount of sleep I get, often by more than 2 hours difference and I have already noticed that people remember things that I could almost swear never happened because I cannot recall it at all. I definitely have noticed that even if I get 10 hours of sleep my memory is just as hazy as if I had 4 hours of sleep and I do believe that 7 to 8 hours of sleep is always a safe amount to stick with. However I have noticed that although 7 hours is enough for one person, it can also be too much or too little sleep for other people. For example my sister cannot function unless she gets at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep while my brother is at his optimum with 5 hours of sleep.

  88. 14054672 May 1, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    I find this article very interesting, especially since the topic is applicable to everyday life. Anyone can read the article and the reflect on his or her own sleeping patterns, thinking about the impact it might have later in life.

    I believe that studies such as these should be made more public. The results can change the way people view the importance of sleep, and in today’s rushed lifestyle it is important since sleep is sometimes seen as a time waster.

    The article is interesting, yet i struggle to grasp any solid facts. I agree with Ms Venter. How does too much or too little sleep affect memory? And what happens in the brain, specifically?

  89. Marulet Venter (14030153) May 1, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    The study surely indicates that memory loss would happen over an extended period of time with sleep deprivation and also too much sleep. But this does not give a clear indication to why the candidates had a loss of memory as they got older. I believe that further study should be induced to determine whether the cycle through which the human brain goes may also affect this memory loss as women age. Other things may also affect this memory loss in the women. Isn’t there a way to do a better and further study to actually keep these variables in mind that may also cause memory decay?

  90. Keleabetswe Tabane (14359805) May 1, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    This is an interesting finding, but it contradicts what most people have been told about how we need eight hours of sleep. But it is beneficial as now one can be aware of the significance for proper sleep, and how proper sleep result in one having a good memory.
    we all know that having a good memory is something which has a significant impact on one’s life as you have to remember plenty of things that happen around one’s life.

  91. Dean Herbig (14069882) May 1, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Sleep is very important. It helps the human body rest and repair damaged cells. Sleep also lets the brain rest. The brain needs sleep to be able to function at its best. So there is no doubt that changing one’s sleep pattern can lead to unexpected side effects. The amount of sleep that is needed by one’s, depends on many factors and it also depends on personality. The basal sleep need is the amount of sleep that one’s body needs regularly to perform at its best. This is the amount of sleep that an one can not go without. There is another factor that also determines the amount of sleep that an one needs and it is called the sleep debt. This is the amount of sleep that one must catch up, because this sleep was lost, due to external factors that made one lose sleep. Sleep is important for one to maintain good health, but how does changing one’s sleep pattern affect one’s memory to such a degree that one loses some cognitive function?

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