Low physical activity and suboptimal sleep quality were found to be independent risk factors for cognitive impairment. Insufficient sleep duration has been associated with accelerated development of cognitive impairment.
Scientists from University College London assessed the effects of physical activity and sleep quality on cognitive abilities. The results of the study were published by The Lancet.
At baseline, participants with high levels of physical activity and optimal sleep quality had higher cognitive scores than those with less physical activity, regardless of sleep quality. At the same time, at baseline, among all participants with high physical activity, indicators of cognitive abilities were comparable for any quality of sleep.
But upon further follow-up, people who were active but didn’t get enough sleep experienced a higher rate of cognitive decline than those with high levels of physical activity and optimal sleep duration. Patients with high levels of physical activity and insufficient sleep were found to have similar cognitive abilities after ten years of follow-up to participants who were inactive, regardless of sleep quality.
|Data from more than 8,000 adults without dementia or cognitive impairment aged 50 years and older, collected from 2008 to 2019, were analyzed. The average follow-up time was ten years. Participants completed questionnaires recording their physical activity and sleep duration at the start of the study. Physical activity was measured using frequency and intensity of exercise. All participants also completed memory tests.
The researchers concluded that physical activity plays an important role in maintaining cognitive health throughout life. For best results, physical activity should be combined with regular and adequate sleep. Therefore, there is a need to develop recommendations that consider both physical activity and sleep quality to improve cognitive performance and reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.