Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Adequate Sleep is Critical to Brain Health & Cognitive Function

Jan 9, 2020

Sleep deprivation causes cognitive decline including impaired attention, working memory, executive function, and logical reasoning ability. Getting inadequate sleep also accelerates the aging process.

A study on the sleep quality and brain atrophy of 147 middle-aged adults found that poor sleep quality was correlated with reduced brain volume in the frontal, temporal, and parietal regions of the brain. The study did not reveal whether poor sleep quality was a cause or a consequence of reduced brain volume. Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep have been linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The areas of the brain that shrank are responsible for reasoning, planning, and language processing (frontal); hearing and memory (temporal); and movement, taste, and touch (parietal). These areas of the thinking brain process information and conduct higher-order reasoning.

Takeaway: If you sleep poorly, your brain shrinks. Strive for the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep to maintain your brain health.

Sources

  1. Debra S. Austin, Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die from Law School Stress and How Neural Self-Hacking can Optimize Cognitive Performance, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 791, 834-837 (2013), online at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2227155.
  2. Claire E. Sexton, DPhil, Andreas B. Storsve, MSc, Kristine B. Walhovd, PhD, Heidi Johansen-Berg, DPhil, and Anders M. Fjell, PhD, Neurology. 2014 Sep 9; 83(11): 967–973, online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4162301/#!po=2.08333.
  3. Debra S. Austin, Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die from Law School Stress and How Neural Self-Hacking can Optimize Cognitive Performance, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 791, 801-802 (2013), online athttps://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2227155.
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