A recent study examined the relationship between sleep and brain volume. The study, which was published in an online article from the journal Neurology, studied 147 adults. Two MRI scans were conducted on the participants 3 ½ years apart and the participants also completed a sleep hygiene questionnaire. The researchers determined that about 35% of the participants met criteria for “poor sleep health.”
For our neuro-folks, the study found a link between poor sleep quality and “reduced volume within the right superior frontal cortex in cross-sectional analyses” as well as “an increased rate of atrophy within widespread frontal, temporal, and parietal regions in longitudinal analyses.” Poor sleep did not appear to be correlated with hippocampal volume or atrophy.
If that sounds too complicated, read this! The study found a link between poor sleep quality and faster decline in brain volume or size (certain areas of the brain are more affected than others). They also found that the effects were more pronounced in individuals over 60 years old.
The study noted that it is unclear which comes first, so they don’t know if poor sleep causes the declining brain volume or if the declining brain volume causes poor sleep. However, these results may be an incentive to improve the quality of our sleep and to help our patients improve the quality of their sleep!
Sexton, C. E., Storsve, A. B., Walhovd, K., B., Johansen-Berg, H., Fjell, A. M. (2014). Poor sleep quality is associated with increased cortical atrophy in community-dwelling adults [Abstract]. Neurology, 83(11) 967-973.
Willingham, V. (2014, September). Lack of sleep may shrink your brain. CNN Health.
Brittany Best, BA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern