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Sleeping less? Your brain will age faster, study finds

Older adults who sleep less show evidence of a more rapid decline in cognitive performance, according to a study by Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The less older adults sleep, the faster their brains age, according to a study released on Tuesday (July 1) by the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore.

The findings were based on a 10-year-long study of 66 older Chinese adults aged 55 years and above. By looking into their structural MRI brain scans, which measure brain volume and neuropsychological assessments, and factoring in the hours of sleep they recorded, the researchers found that those who slept fewer hours showed evidence of faster ventricle enlargement and decline in cognitive performance.

“Our findings relate short sleep to a marker of brain aging,” said Dr June Lo, the lead author and a Duke-NUS Research Fellow.

Past research has shown that faster brain ventricle enlargement is a market for cognitive decline and the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Duke-NUS said.

"Work done elsewhere suggests that seven hours a day for adults seem to be the sweet spot for optimal performance on computer-based cognitive tests," said Professor Michael Chee, senior author and Director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke-NUS.

The School said the findings are relevant given Singapore's rapidly ageing society, and hopes the study paves the way for future work on sleep loss and its contribution to cognitive decline, including dementia.

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