Sleep and Memory

Here’s another reason to catch your z’s. According to a recent study, your memory might suffer later in life if you don’t get enough sleep.

Researchers with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tested the sleep patterns of 100 people without dementia. The study subjects were between the ages of 45 and 80, and half of them had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers placed a device on the participants for two weeks to measure sleep, and also analyzed sleep diaries and questionnaires.

The investigators found that 25 percent of the study subjects had evidence of amyloid plaques, which can appear years before the start of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. On average, a person spent about eight hours in bed during the study, but due to short awakenings during the night the average sleep time was only 6.5 hours.

The authors of the study found that people who woke up more than five times an hour were more likely to have amyloid plaque build-up than people who didn’t wake up as much. They also found that participants who spent less than 85 percent of their time in bed sleeping were more likely to exhibit markers of early stage Alzheimer’s than those who spent more than 85 percent of their time in bed sleeping.

The study authors say more studies are needed to “determine whether disrupted sleep leads to amyloid plaques or whether brain changes in early Alzheimer’s disease lead to changes in sleep.”