Exercise With Lack of Sleep Can Dull Cognition

A groundbreaking study has highlighted the crucial role of exercise in protecting our mental faculties as we age. However, the study also brings to light a concerning factor: insufficient sleep could potentially diminish the positive effects of exercise.

The study spanned over a decade and involved 8,958 individuals aged 50 and above in England. With a focus on cognitive abilities, the research explored the intricate relationship between sleep patterns, exercise habits, and cognitive health.

Physical activity is beneficial for cognitive health, but lack of sleep can diminish its positive effects. Researchers discovered that individuals who were active but slept less than six hours a night experienced faster cognitive decline over a 10-year period. This decline was comparable to those who were less physically active.

The study emphasizes the importance of considering both sleep and physical activity for optimal cognitive function. It also challenges previous cross-sectional studies, which only provided a snapshot of the relationship between sleep, activity, and cognitive health. Ultimately, regular exercise alone may not be enough to compensate for the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive abilities.

The study confirms previous findings that getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night and engaging in regular physical activity are associated with better cognitive function. Interestingly, individuals who were more active showed improved cognitive function regardless of their sleep duration at the beginning of the study. However, over the course of ten years, physically active individuals who slept less than six hours experienced a quicker decline in cognitive abilities. This decline was particularly noticeable among participants in their 50s and 60s. Surprisingly, older participants aged 70 and over still derived cognitive benefits from exercise, even with shorter sleep duration.

This research emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle that can preserve cognitive function in middle and late adulthood. Understanding the factors that safeguard cognitive function in middle and later life is crucial, as they can potentially extend our years of cognitive health and, in some cases, postpone the onset of dementia.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Joint associations of physical activity and sleep duration with cognitive ageing: longitudinal analysis of an English cohort study