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According to a recent study published in the American Academy of Neurology's medical journal, Neurology, disrupted sleep in one's 30s and 40s can lead to memory and cognitive difficulties a decade later. The research, conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, focused on the duration and quality of sleep of participants.
During the study, 526 individuals with an average age of 40 were followed for 11 years. Participants wore a wrist activity monitor for three consecutive days on two separate occasions to determine their sleep averages. The findings revealed that the participants had an average of six hours of sleep.
The study also evaluated sleep quality by asking participants to record their bedtimes and wake times in a sleep diary and complete a sleep quality survey. A score of zero to 21 was given on the survey, with higher scores indicating poorer sleep quality. Out of the participants, 46 percent reported poor sleep, indicated by a score greater than five.
In addition to sleep duration and quality, researchers examined sleep fragmentation, which refers to repetitive short interruptions of sleep. This was measured by analyzing the percentage of time spent moving and not moving for one minute or less during sleep. On average, participants had a sleep fragmentation rate of 19 percent.
Based on sleep fragmentation scores, researchers divided the participants into three groups. It was discovered that out of the 175 individuals with the most disrupted sleep, 44 had poor cognitive performance after ten years. In contrast, only 10 out of the 176 individuals with the least disrupted sleep experienced cognitive difficulties. Even after adjusting for age, gender, race, and education, those with the most disrupted sleep had more than twice the odds of displaying poor cognitive performance compared to those with the least disrupted sleep.
These findings emphasize the importance of understanding the relationship between sleep and cognition earlier in life. As signs of diseases like Alzheimer's start appearing in the brain several decades before symptoms manifest, researchers believe that comprehending sleep problems as a risk factor for such diseases is crucial. The study indicates that the quality, rather than the quantity, of sleep plays a significant role in maintaining cognitive health during middle age.
In conclusion, the study highlights the potential long-term consequences of disrupted sleep in one's 30s and 40s. It serves as a reminder of the importance of promoting healthy sleep habits to maintain cognitive function as individuals age.