Poor sleep in middle age is linked to cognitive decline later in life, suggesting improved sleep earlier in life may reverse or delay some age-related cognition issues, according to researchers.
“It’s the difference between investing up front rather than trying to compensate later,” Michael K. Scullin, PhD, director of Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, said in a press release. “We came across studies that showed that sleeping well in middle age predicted better mental functioning 28 years later.”
Michael K. Scullin
Approximately 200 studies on sleep and mental functioning among patients stemming back to 1967 were reviewed for the analysis published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Patients were categorized according to age: 18 years to 29 years as ‘young,’ 30 to 60 years as ‘middle-aged,’ and 60 years and older as ‘old.’
Scullin and colleagues wrote that the most prominent findings in the self-report literature is that poor quality sleep during middle age was linked to neurodegeneration-related biomarkers and subsequent cognitive decline.
Their analysis of the literature includes a series of potential explanations. One possible rationale is that sleep does not relate to cognitive functions such as memory consolidation, according to researchers. Another proposes that all sleep-cognition findings in older adults are complementary at a holistic level, suggesting preserved associations between cognitive domains and sleep quality, they wrote.
“People sometimes disparage sleep as ‘lost time,’” Scullin said. “Sleeping well still is linked to better mental health, improved cardiovascular health and fewer, less severe disorders and diseases of many kinds.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.