A new study finds that as people age and their ability to get truly restful sleep diminishes, their risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders increases.
Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley determined that the parts of the brain that deteriorate the fastest as we age are the same areas that are responsible for the deep, restorative sleep we enjoyed in our youth.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” says senior author Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the school, in a news release.
Such ailments include heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, says Walker, while memory-related condition such as Alzheimer’s are more likely when it comes to lack of ample rest.
“We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span,” he adds. “We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”
During their review of the research, Walker and his team found that the elderly have more trouble generating the slow brainwaves that deep sleep requires, and their brains struggle to produce the neurochemicals responsible for switching from sleep to wakefulness.
In young, healthy brains, slow brainwaves help transfer memories and other information from the brain’s short-term memory center, the hippocampus, to the prefrontal cortex, where the brain stores long-term memories. These brainwaves become disrupted as we age.
The disruption of the brain’s production of the neurochemicals galanin, which promotes sleep, and orexin, which promotes wakefulness, often cause fatigue in older people during the day and restlessness at night.
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Source: Study Finds