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Insomnia may lead to memory loss in adults

A new comprehensive study on sleep disorders in older adults has been conducted by researchers at Concordia University. The team has found that middle-aged and older adults who suffer from insomnia symptoms are more likely to develop memory loss disorders, such as dementia.

By using data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, the experts were able to collect information from over 26,000 adults between the ages of 45 and 85. 

To conduct the analysis, the researchers compared self-reported evaluations from an initial report in 2019 and a follow-up evaluation in 2022. They found that individuals with declining sleep quality in the three years between evaluations were more likely to report memory decline. 

“We found that insomnia specifically was related to worse memory performance compared to those who have some insomnia symptoms alone or no sleep problems at all. This deficit in memory was specific, as we also looked at other cognitive function domains such as attention span multi-tasking.[sic] We only found differences in memory,” said study co-lead author Nathan Cross, a postdoctoral fellow at the Sleep, Cognition and Neuroimaging Lab.

According to the analysis, individuals with worsening insomnia had more psychological distress, including depression and anxiety, due to their insomnia. They were also more likely to have a higher BMI and smoke. 

The researchers discovered that women with insomnia perform better than men with the disease, which puts men at a greater risk of developing memory decline. 

Despite the grim findings, the authors are optimistic about the results of their study. According to Cross, the good news is that sleep disorders like insomnia can be treated. 

“This highlights the importance of properly diagnosing and managing insomnia as early as possible in older adults. Adequately treating insomnia disorder might become an important preventive measure for cognitive decline and mitigate the incidence of dementia in later life,” said Cross. 

The study is published in the journal SLEEP.

By Erin Moody , Staff Writer

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