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

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.”

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91 thoughts on “Extreme sleep: Change in durations may affect brain health in later life”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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