Sleep problems tied to brain health

Not getting a good night's sleep has been tied to a number of health problems, and results of a recent study have added another one to the list. A group of new studies suggest the amount and quality of sleep may be tied to mental decline and even Alzheimer's disease, according to HealthDay News.

The largest of the four studies, presented at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer's Association, looked at the association between cognitive problems and getting both too much and too little sleep. The researchers analyzed data on more than 15,000 women and found those who slept less than five or more than nine hours a night aged their brain by about two years. Additionally, they had lower mental function than the subjects who slept seven hours a day.

"I think this gives us data to think about sleep - and circadian-based interventions being a route to address cognitive function," study author Elizabeth Devore told the news source.

Disruptions during sleep also caused cognitive problems, according to a separate study. This one, out of the University of California, San Francisco, found that older women who have sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea had a greater chance of having mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

The good news about the study is that many seniors report that they sleep well at night. While many believe that the quality of sleep declines with age, a recent survey found just the opposite to be true. Researchers found younger adults were twice as likely to report problems sleeping compared to adults over 80, MSNBC.com reports. What the study emphasized the most was that sleep problems are not a natural part of healthy senior living and could be indicative of a larger problem.