Overcoming Insomnia in Your 40s Will Keep Your Brain Sharper as You Age, Study Says

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Over the course of our lives, our sleep patterns naturally ebb and flow—and getting enough rest on a nightly basis is key, however old we are. If you are approaching or in middle age, however, it could be especially important to catch Zs consistently each and every evening. Researchers out of the University of Helsinki found that those who didn’t get rest around the age of 45 had decreases in cognitive function by the time they reached 65.

The team wrote about these findings in The Helsinki Health Study at the University of Helsinki, which was published in the Journal of Aging and Health. The scientists studied 3,700 residents from Helsinki, Finland, over the span of 15 to 17 years to test any early symptoms of insomnia during middle age and their memory, learning, and concentration after they retired. “The findings indicate that severe insomnia symptoms were associated with worse cognitive function among those who were [retired],” said Antti Etholén, a doctoral researcher, in a university release.

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After examining the study volunteers for nearly two decades, the researchers found that the longer the participants experienced insomnia in mid-life, the more their cognitive functions declined. In turn, people who got better sleep during the middle-age phase had better memory in their senior years. “Based on our findings, early intervention tackling insomnia symptoms, or measures aimed at improving the quality of sleep, would be justified,” added Professor Tea Lallukka.

While the university researchers noted that consistent, deep sleep is critical, they did explain that breaking the insomnia cycle and treating this condition is challenging. They are aiming to conduct future work to determine how to help insomniacs fall asleep and if those measures can provide long-term brain health benefits. “In subsequent studies, it would be interesting to shed further light on, for example, whether the treatment of insomnia can also slow down the development of memory disorders,” Lallukka said.