Can little sleep reduce brain size?

New research questions whether sleep difficulties could lead to a faster decline in brain volume over time

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We know that little sleep can negatively affect our life in terms of attention and productivity at work, causing some symptoms to appear on a physical level, upsetting the nervous and emotional systems, etc. Now new research questions whether the sleep difficulties could over time lead to a faster decline in brain volume.

The study, published in Neurology, reaffirms how much sleep is essential to rest the brain and allow it to restore all its functions in the best possible way. The team of researchers involved took a sample of 147 people between the ages of 20 and 84 to be able to examine the link that exists between sleep disorders (difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal awakenings, etc.) e the size of the brain.

All participants who were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their sleep habits underwent two brain scans about 3 years apart one from the other. 35% of the people involved reported poor sleep quality and it was the latter who had a more rapid decrease in brain volume over time, especially if they were over 60. The brain regions affected by the reduction were both the frontal areas than the temporal and parietal ones.

Although the two aspects (ie sleep disturbances and decreased brain volume) coincided, scientists were cautious in coming to conclusions: "It is not yet known whether poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of changes in the structure of the brain. “Said Claire E. Sexton, author of the study. But either way: "Improving people's sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health."

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