While many of us are already well aware of the benefits of getting enough sleep, new research says it's the quality of our sleep that matters most. New research reported by CBS News indicates that not getting a good night's sleep might actually shrink your brain.
Sleeping at night is how the brain resets and replenishes itself, so when that is disrupted over extended periods of time, the brain's ability to repair itself is significantly hampered and gray matter can start to atrophy.
A team of researchers including Claire Sexton, a researcher at the University of Oxford in England, conducted brain scans on 147 Norwegian adults with an average age of 54.
Their sleep patterns and quality of sleep were monitored for about 3.5 years. The results, published Sept. 3 in Neurology, indicated a direct correlation with poor sleep quality and reduced volume in gray matter.
Gray matter helps with reasoning, planning, memory and problem-solving; deteriorating gray matter was seen in mostly older adults who suffered from poor sleep quality.
The problem is that not only do sleep difficulties affect a large percentage of the general population, but they can worsen as we grow older. So if you have trouble falling asleep and you wake up throughout the night or even too early, then it might be time to re-evaluate your bedtime routine and find a way to improve your quality of sleep.
However, the research also concluded that it could be just as likely that deterioration in the brain might also contribute to difficulty sleeping.
How's that for a Catch 22? In the meantime, however, we can all protect our gray matter and take preventative measures by catching some quality Zs.