A good night’s sleep might ward off cognitive problems

Bryan Aldrige

February 15, 2012

A good night's sleep might ward off cognitive problemsSleeping enough at night is crucial to allowing people to feel good and ready to face the next day. Although most people understand that getting enough zzzzz's is important to how they feel overall, a new study reports that sleeping soundly might also help ward off memory loss in old age.

The study conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis came to this conclusion by recruiting 100 people between the ages of 45 and 80 to test their sleeping patterns. All participants were free of dementia, though half had a family history of Alzheimer's. During the two-week study each person was fitted with a device that measured their sleep during the night. Participants also filled out journals detailing their sleeping habits and answered questionnaires given out by the scientists.

From the data, researchers found that people who woke up more than five times each hour during the night were more likely to have amyloid plaque build- up – a common marker in the brain that are connected to the development of Alzheimer's. People who spent less than 85 percent of the night engaged in actual sleep were also found to be more likely to have the marker.

Although it's not clear yet whether sleep actually affects memory loss, it is well-known that a lack of sleep can cause a person to feel groggy or foggy the next day. These symptoms can be dangerous for seniors as they might lead to a fall. Elders living alone might benefit from installing a medical alert system so they have a means to call for help should they suffer an accident. The Mayo Clinic reports that older adults tend to sleep lighter than younger adults, even though they need about the same amount of sleep. 

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