According to a UK study published Wednesday, adults over 50 who had higher levels of frequent and intense exercise while getting less than an average of six hours of sleep a night had a faster cognitive decline than those who got more sleep while exercising less frequently.
The study's lead author, Dr. Mikaela Bloomberg of University College London, says their research suggests that sufficient sleep may be required to receive the "full cognitive benefits" of exercise.
This study helps reaffirm what we know about sleep and cognitive function, as this woefully neglected aspect of our health gets the attention that it deserves. Sleep is a vital, restorative process that flushes out toxic proteins that accumulate in our brain throughout the day, a cleaning process that slows down as we age. Improving sleep quality in older adults could be a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to their cognitive health.
While the plethora of studies surrounding cognitive decline and lifestyle seem promising, dementia is nonetheless an unpreventable condition, and media reporting on the matter may give people false hope about this frightening illness. Observational studies are less valuable than randomized trials, and an intractable chicken-or-the-egg problem emerges when studying lifestyle and cognitive function: do healthy habits reverse or prevent cognitive decline, or are people with cognitive decline less likely to have healthy habits?