June 25, 2024

Poor Sleep Linked To Increased Markers Of Impaired Brain Health, Study Finds

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that inadequate or excessive sleep may lead to changes in the brain that increase the risk of stroke and dementia later in life. The research emphasizes the need to prevent these conditions before they occur.

Conducted by a team at Yale School of Medicine, one of the largest neuroimaging studies of its kind analyzed brain images of nearly 40,000 healthy middle-aged individuals. The study aimed to understand how sleep patterns might impact two key measures of brain health: white matter hyperintensities (WMH), which indicate brain aging, and fractional anisotropy, a measure of water diffusion uniformity in nerve axons. Higher levels of WMH, larger WMH, and lower fractional anisotropy are associated with an elevated risk of stroke and dementia.

The results indicated that individuals with insufficient sleep had a greater risk of WMH presence, larger WMH volume in areas where lesions were present, and lower fractional anisotropy compared to those with optimal sleep (7-9 hours per night). On the other hand, long sleep (more than 9 hours per night) was linked to lower fractional anisotropy and larger WMH volume but did not increase the risk of WMH presence.

Santiago Clocchiatti-Tuozzo, MD, the first author of the study and a T32 postdoctoral fellow at the Falcone lab at Yale School of Medicine, emphasized that these findings contribute to the growing body of evidence suggesting that sleep is crucial for maintaining brain health. Moreover, the study underscores the need to identify sleep duration as a modifiable risk factor for brain health later in life.

The researchers suggest that middle age is a critical period to adjust sleeping habits to support brain health. Clocchiatti-Tuozzo believes that sleep is gaining attention as an essential aspect of overall health, and he hopes that this study, along with others, can provide insights into modifying sleep patterns to improve brain health in the future.

The study involved several co-authors, including Cyprien Rivier, Daniela Renedo, Victor Torres Lopez, Jacqueline Geer, Brienne Miner, Henry Yaggi, Adam de Havenon, Seyedmedhi Payabvash, Kevin Sheth, Thomas Gill, and Guido Falcone.

This study highlights the significant impact of sleep on brain health and underscores the importance of maintaining optimal sleep duration. By recognizing and addressing sleep patterns in middle age, individuals can potentially reduce the risk of developing stroke and dementia. As sleep emerges as a prominent topic in healthcare, further research in this area holds promise for improving brain health outcomes in the years to come.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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