UO-Led Research Connects Sleep With Cognition

Jun 23, 2014

A new University of Oregon-led study reveals some interesting notions about sleep. The research included middle-aged and older people in six countries. Anthropologists found a correlation between "optimal" sleep and increased cognition. KLCC's Tiffany Eckert spoke with the study's lead author.

Theresa Gildner bikes in to KLCC to talk about her sleep study.
Credit Tiffany Eckert

Sleep really does matter. And the older we get, the more important it is for our thinking. Those are the findings of U of O doctoral student Theresa Gildner from the first wave of data in a long-term sleep project. 30,000 subjects from six middle-income nations rated their sleep quality on a 5-point scale. Then they went through five cognitive tests. Gildner says the most surprising data came from women.

Gildner: "In general they were reporting longer sleep durations but poorer sleep quality I every country compared to the men. So that was a very interesting finding and it was pretty compelling evidence that we were seeing this in every country. It seems that women are struggling with their sleep as they get older."

Gildner says the reasons may vary from post-menopausal changes, bladder instability or feelings of isolation after the loss of a spouse.

Both of the African tests countries, South Africa and Ghana, reported the longest sleep durations for both men and women. Mexico was added to that short list for the best sleep *quality.

The least sleep hours for both sexes occurred in India.

24 year old Gildner says Americans value productivity and often sacrifice sleep. She hopes her study will inspire other research groups to test current hypothesis.

Gildner: "And see if we can find some more patterns that could help medical intervention design to help with cognition and dementia."

In the meantime, Sleep tight!

(The study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.)

To hear the extended interview click here: