A new study has shown that lack of sleep affects the make-up of the brain such that the process of brain aging is accelerated. The results were illustrated by scans of the brain which showed the expansion of ventricles, which constitutes a marker for aging.
Our bodies are such that we need sleep to restore our strength. Not only that, but we also need adequate sleep to really feel refreshed, the lack of which thereof is associated with a number of ills. Recently, researchers have shown that inadequate sleep causes the acceleration of the aging of the brain in the middle-aged adults. The new study published in the journal Sleep aimed at examining the evolution of the brain in relation to the process of aging.
With age, the brain undergoes certain changes. However, shortened sleep has been shown to speed up the process. The study had as subjects healthy adults of 55 years old and older. The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological assessment to study the brain processes that result thereof. These scans would allow for the regions of the brain to be carefully observed to measure brain volume. They found that for every hour deprived of sleep, the brain ventricles would expand while the global cognitive abilities were reduced in scope. The brain ventricles are a network of cavities filled with fluid, which serve as marker for aging. The increased expansion of this region of the brain has often been associated with cognitive decline. Furthermore, this phenomenon has also been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s disease – a neurodegenerative disorder – which is a form of dementia. Now, the new study brought additional information as to the accelerated expansion of the ventricles in a new perspective. With every hour of decreased sleep, the rate of expansion of the ventricles would rise by 0.59 % while the cognitive performance decreased at a rate of 0.67 %.
The researchers stated that: “In healthy older adults, short sleep duration is associated with greater age-related brain atrophy and cognitive decline.”
According to the lead author, Professor Michael Chee, seven hours of sleep per day for adults would be enough for optimal performance. He pointed out that more studies should be done bridging the gap between lab-based studies and epidemiological ones so as to bring forth more reliable results that could be used to sensitise the population. He warned that if proper attention is not given to the pressing issues like accelerated aging, the problems could spiral out of control.
Sleep is often taken for granted. The modern world is such that sleep deprivation is, as if, the order of the day, be it because of work and studies compelling people to stay up till late, or just because it has evolved into a characteristic preference of contemporary societies to only sleep till very late. However, several studies have been done to show the dramatic negative effects that lack of adequate sleep causes: insufficient sleep could increase the risk to diseases like diabetes and obesity, ailments which are already on the rise.
Be kind to your body – do not deprive it of the sleep that it needs.