A new study found that poor sleep quality causes the different areas of the brain to shrink.
Researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom analyzed the sleep data of 147 adults ages 20 to 84. The analysis looked at the participants' ability to fall and stay asleep and their quality of sleep, then compared the results with their brain volume.
The participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during the early part of the study, then another MRI after 3.5 years. The researchers asked participants to complete a survey to get more information about their sleeping habits.
The results of the study revealed that 35 percent of the participants have reduced quality of sleep. They scored an average of 8.5 out of the 21 possible points from the sleep assessment. The same assessment also determined their length of sleep, hours it takes for them to fall asleep and their dependence on medications to get or improve sleep.
After careful analysis of the brain scans, the researchers noted that those with poor sleep quality showed a faster decline of the brain's volume. During the study, brain shrinkage was observed in different areas of the brain particularly in the temporal, frontal and parietal regions. This observation though is prevalent on participants who are at least 60 years old.
"It is not yet known whether poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of changes in brain structure," study author Claire E. Sexton of the University, said in a university news release.
The researchers admitted that a further analysis is needed to fully establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between poor sleep quality and brain shrinkage. The results of the study can be used to improve the recommendations and treatments given to those with sleeping problems or poor brain health.
Further details of the study were published in the Sept.3 issue of Neurology.