Dean M. Hartley, PhD, director of science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association, points out that the study doesn't show cause and effect, only that there is an association between sleep and memory.
But other studies support a link, too. For example, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that a good night's sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory.
"We've had inklings of a link. And this is a very dynamic study with a large number of participants. Together with its other health benefits, including its role in protecting against heart disease and diabetes, this is yet another reason to get a good night's sleep," Hartley says.
Devore says she's hopeful that the work could eventually lead to new strategies to protect against impairment of memory and thinking abilities and also Alzheimer's disease.
Some tips for a good night's sleep from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Avoid caffeine, chocolate, and nicotine close to bedtime.
These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.