The Helsinki Health Study at the University of Helsinki investigated the development of symptoms of insomnia in middle age and their impact on memory, learning ability and concentration after retirement. The observation period was 15-17 years.
According to the study, long-term symptoms of insomnia and subsequent deterioration in cognitive functioning have a clear association.
“The results show that severe symptoms of insomnia were associated with impaired cognitive function among those who were legally retired,” says Dr. Anti Etolen, describing the results of the study.
The study also found that memory problems as well as problems with the ability to learn and concentrate increased as the symptoms of insomnia persisted.
Sleeps well in middle age
Previous research has shown that there are a number of mechanisms that may explain how sleep can affect cognitive function. What makes a recently published study exceptional is the long period of observation of insomnia symptoms.
Among other things, the study showed that as insomnia symptoms decreased over the years, cognitive functioning was also better at retirement age compared to persistent problems.
According to researchers, prolonged symptoms of insomnia should be considered as risk factors for poor cognitive functioning.
“Based on our results, early intervention to combat the symptoms of insomnia or measures to improve sleep quality will be justified,” says Professor Theo Lalucca.
There are many ways to improve sleep quality, including regularity of sleep rhythm, appropriate temperature and brightness of sleep environment, as well as optimal time for exercise, coffee and food intake.
However, Lalucca believes that research interventions are still needed to determine the effects of measures to support good sleep.
“In future research, it would be interesting to shed further light on, for example, whether treating insomnia can also slow the development of memory disorders,” says Lalucca. She emphasizes that only self-reported memory symptoms can be considered in this study.
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