Research from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore indicates that long-term sleep deprivation is correlated with speedier aging-related brain atrophy and lowered cognitive performance. Such research adds to the growing body of evidence in support of the idea that losing sleep not only has negative effects on short-term mood and well-being, but also can contribute to long-term health problems.
For their particular study the Duke University researchers examined relatively healthy adults aged 55 years and older. Every two years the subjects participated in neuropsychological assessments and had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure completed to image their brains.
Researchers noted that the ventricles in the brain were especially prominent in individuals who were chronically sleep deprived. Ventricles are naturally occurring cavities in an aging brain that fill up with cerebrospinal fluid. The enlarging of these brain cavities is thought to occur because of a loss of neurons, and is associated with conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, neurodegenerative disorders, and the natural aging process. Though the impact of enlarged ventricles on the human brain is still not entirely understood, they are generally regarded as reliable markers for assessing an individual’s risk of cognitive impairment. In looking at chronically sleep deprived brains, researchers noted that this process happened at an increased rate. For every hour less that a person on average slept at night, ventricle expansion occurred 0.59 percent faster than the normal rate.
To read more, click on the link above.