Adequate Sleep May Help Preserve Memory at Older Ages Interview with:
Elizabeth Devore, ScD
Associate Epidemiologist
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Devore: In this study, we examined sleep duration and memory performance in a group of ~15,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study. We found that women with sleep durations of 5 or fewer hours/day or 9 or more hours/day, either in midlife or later life, had worse memory at older ages than those sleeping 7 hours/day. In addition, women with sleep durations that changed by two or more hours/day from midlife to later life performed worse on memory tests compared to those whose sleep duration did not change during that time period.The magnitude of these memory differences was approximately equivalent to being 1-2 years older in age. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Devore: These findings were not entirely unexpected because they were consistent with our scientific hypothesis prior to conducting the study. However, we were impressed by the consistency of the association between extreme sleep durations and worse memory. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Devore: This study suggests that sleeping habits may be important for preserving memory at older ages; specifically, getting an “average” amount of sleep (7 hours/day) may help maintain memory in later life. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Devore: Future research should be conducted to confirm our findings and identify underlying mechanisms that explain these associations.


Sleep Duration In Midlife and Later Life In Relation to Cognition: The Nurses’ Health Study
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Elizabeth E. Devore, Francine Grodstein, Jeanne F. Duffy, Meir J. Stampfer, Charles A. Czeisler and Eva S. Schernhammer

Article first published online : 1 MAY 2014, DOI: 10.1111/jgs.12790


Last Updated on May 2, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD