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Exercise, good sleep help support brain health

Alicia Colombo

Regular exercise supports a healthy body and mind, but sleep deprivation may undo those mental benefits.

A recent study conducted in England shows that adults age 50 and older who are active but get less sleep had faster cognitive (mental) decline. After 10 years, the cognitive function of active older adults with inadequate sleep was equal to that of their inactive older-adult counterparts.

“Our study suggests that getting sufficient sleep may be required for us to get the full cognitive benefit of physical activity,” said lead author Dr. Mikaela Bloomberg of University College London (UCL) Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care. “It is important to consider sleep and physical activity together when thinking about cognitive health. Regular physical activity may not always be sufficient to counter the long-term effects of lack of sleep.”

According to the researchers, getting an average of six to eight hours of sleep per night and higher levels of physical activity were linked to better cognitive function. At the beginning of the study, participants who were more active showed better mental function, no matter how long they slept. However, this changed over the 10-year study period, with those sleeping fewer than six hours having a more rapid mental decline over time.

This mental decline was present for study participants aged 50-69. However, participants 70 and older maintained the mental benefits of exercise even with shorter sleep.

“It is important to identify the factors that can protect cognitive function in middle and later life, as they can serve to prolong our cognitively healthy years and, for some people, delay a dementia diagnosis,” said study co-author Andrew Steptoe of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care. “The World Health Organization already identifies physical activity as a way to maintain cognitive function, but interventions should also consider sleep habits to maximize long-term benefits for cognitive health.”

Good sleep habits can help to improve or maintain your sleep health. Some tips include going to bed at the same time each night; making your bedroom quiet, dark and comfortable in temperature; removing electronic devices from the bedroom; and avoiding large meals, caffeine or alcohol before bedtime.

Source: HealthDay News

Categories: Health Milestones eNews


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