Scientific studies are not necessary to know that little and poor sleep harms us, but they can help us better understand the magnitude of the problems that lack of sleep causes us. And above all help us sleep better. One of these studies explains now, that these consequences of insomnia can last a long time and affect our abilities when we reach old age.
What the study says.
The new analysis points to a correlation between more severe cases of insomnia in middle-aged people and cognitive problems when they reach retirement age. The cognitive impairments noted by the analysis team are problems with memory, concentration, and problems with learning ability. These symptoms were milder in those participants whose insomnia improved over time.
What the researchers looked at.
The article featured in the magazine Journal of Aging and Health gives details about this study, conducted in Finland and involving more than 3,700 participants (mostly women). At first, these participants were surveyed about their sleep problems and later (between 15 and 17 years later) they were given a second follow-up survey. It is precisely this long interval that is the aspect of the study highlighted by the authors, since studies on the effects of long-term insomnia are not so abundant.
As always, caution about the results.
Several factors must be taken into account before drawing conclusions. The first, explains Tea Lallukka, co-author of the study, is that it only takes subjective measures of cognitive abilities, that is, those declared by the participants through a survey. Subjective estimates are valid and very used in this type of study. but they may disagree other forms of objective measurement.
The second factor to take into account is that the study measures a correlation between sleep and cognitive abilities, but the causal relationship is not assured. In relation to this aspect, only the second survey asked the participants about their cognitive abilities.
What we can learn from this study.
Even with its limitations, the study can help us better understand how our minds age. Detecting insomnia problems could help prevent its worst consequences. In this regard, Lallukka points out that it is necessary to evaluate possible interventions to confirm whether improving sleep in middle-aged people has a positive impact when they reach old age.
The weight of insomnia.
The news that insomnia is related to problems when it comes to functioning in our day to day life is not surprising. We know that not sleeping affects our body and our mind. they are already Many studies investigating the effects that lack of sleep has on us. And it seems that we sleep worse and worse, or so the progressive increase in the consumption of medications to treat it in Spain, which has already exceeded the per capita consumption of the rest of the world’s countries.
Objective: sleep better.
Sometimes insomnia problems can be important enough that we have to go to health professionals. There are, however, ways to improve the quality (and quantity) of our sleep on a day-to-day basis, which do not require medication either. Thus, for example, maintaining regular sleep, making sure that our environment is conducive and being careful with substances such as caffeine or alcohol are common tips.
Image | Zoë Gayah Jonker