Scientists from the University of Helsinki found that insomnia in midlife may manifest as cognitive problems in retirement age.
The research is published in the Journal of Aging and Health and was conducted by Antti Etholén et al.
In the study, the team examined the development of insomnia symptoms in midlife and their effects on memory, learning ability, and concentration after retirement.
The follow-up period was 15–17 years. The team found long-term insomnia symptoms and later poorer cognitive functioning have a clear connection.
The findings showed that severe insomnia symptoms were associated with worse cognitive function among older people.
The study also found that the memory problems and problems in learning ability and concentration increased as the insomnia symptoms were prolonged.
Prior research has shown that there are a number of mechanisms that can explain how sleep can affect cognitive functioning.
What makes the recently published study exceptional is the long follow-up period for insomnia symptoms.
Among other things, the study showed that if insomnia symptoms eased over the years, cognitive functioning was also found to be better at retirement age compared to the problems persisting.
According to the researchers, long-lasting insomnia symptoms should be considered risk factors for poor cognitive functioning.
There are many ways to improve the quality of sleep, including the regularity of the sleep rhythm, the appropriate temperature and brightness of the sleeping environment, and the optimal timing of physical exercise, coffee consumption, and eating.
The team believes that intervention studies are still needed to ascertain the effects of measures in support of good sleep.
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