Researchers studying sleep relevance to memory at the University of Oregon have declared that cognition is proportionate to the amount of sleep that seniors receive each night. The data collected came from six different nations of middle-income and indicated that not only could getting enough sleep directly affect memory, it could also play a key role in the prevention of neurological disorders such as dementia. The study, which was led by Theresa E. Gildner from the University’s Department of Anthropology, focused on the decline of neurological functionality and memory retention in relation to sleep patterns and the results proved to be in favor of more sleep.
Focus on The Study
The fact that sleeping enough each night is important for your health isn’t a new concept, but the idea that it could affect memory to such a degree wasn’t known for sure. The UO study incorporated data from thirty thousand participants, ages fifty and over, and took the information over a number of years beginning in 2007 from countries such as China, India, Russia, Mexico, South Africa, and Ghana. Gilder is quoted by CTV News in saying: “In all six countries, which are very different culturally, economically and environmentally — despite all these differences — you see similar patterns emerging.”
In almost all countries women reported sleeping for longer durations, except in Mexico and Russia, where men were more likely to have longer sleep times. Of the countries monitored, subjects in India slept least, and those from South Africa slept more than all other countries.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much Sleep
The findings concluded more than just whether or not too little sleep effected cognitive function, it also concluded that too much sleep could play a negative role in memory retention as well. In fact, those subjects that slept longer than 9 hours each night were just as likely to forget as those who had less than 6 hours of sleep, leading researchers to confirm that the appropriate amount of sleep for seniors each night must fall between 6 and 9. The information came from test scores of questions completed by subjects throughout the study. Most of the testing utilized recall methods and asked men and women to remember lists of words, numbers, animals, and other items. The results of the study were reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, and also included information regarding the differences in memories of those in good health, going through menopause, and grieving the loss of a loved one, as each of these emotional and physical changes also changed test scores.
Reasons For Sleep Loss
Although the lack of sleep in seniors may show cause for alarm in relation to mental functionality, it’s also something that can be difficult to control, as aging brings with it many health issues and hormonal changes that can make it difficult to fall asleep normally. Many seniors are up early in the mornings, which can take away from sleep throughout the night if there’s trouble drifting off. Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and muscle soreness can also cause sleeping woes, along with many other age related physical symptoms like arthritis and general aches and pains. The National Sleep Foundation states: “Studies on the sleep habits of older Americans show an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency), an overall decline in REM sleep, and an increase in sleep fragmentation (waking up during the night) with age.”
Although there’s no definite answer for why seniors tend to sleep and rise earlier, many scientists have made the decision that it has to do with biological clocks and the urge to rise with the sun. Light therapy has been used to determine the significance of this decision, but even men and women who turn in early may not fall asleep on time. 44% of men and women above 50 years of age tend to experience symptoms of insomnia, according to a Sleep in America Poll that was tabulated in 2003.
Other Health Issues Affiliated With Sleep Deprivation
Sleep loss has other major health effects on the human body than just memory capabilities. Your metabolism and weight can also be interrupted by little sleep; in fact, many Americans may attribute at least some of their weight gain to poor sleep habits, as studies have found that those who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to become obese. Heart health can also be problematic when proper sleeping habits aren’t put in place on a regular basis, and reports of irregular heartbeat and hypertension have been linked to lack of sleep. Although a 2008 study found that 75% of people have trouble obtaining 6 hours of sleep each night at least a few nights each week, there isn’t enough information yet to determine all of the affects that chronic sleep disorders can cause. Harvard Medical School Health Publications write: “While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep loss and health, it’s safe to say that sleep is too important to shortchange.”
Among the many problems that do seem to arise with less sleep, mood and overall health seems to change most, resulting in lowered immune systems, and unhappy seniors, and people of all ages as well.
Even if you don’t believe you have insomnia, but have problems falling asleep at night, or sleeping once you turn in, you should see your doctor about possible treatment options and a proper diagnoses.