US researchers have found that brain scans of people who say they have insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night’s sleep.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said the poor sleepers struggled to focus part of their brain in memory tests.
Brain scans of people with insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night’s sleep
Other experts said that the brain’s wiring may actually be affecting perceptions of sleep quality.
The findings were published in the journal Sleep.
People with insomnia struggle to sleep at night, but it also has consequences during the day such as delayed reaction times and memory.
The study compared 25 people who said they had insomnia with 25 who described themselves as good sleepers. MRI brain scans were carried out while they performed increasingly challenging memory tests.
One of the researchers, Prof. Sean Drummond, said: “We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off <<mind-wandering>> brain regions irrelevant to the task.
“This data helps us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day.”
A new research suggests that drinking cocoa every day may help older people keep their brains healthy.
A study of 60 elderly people with no dementia found two cups of cocoa a day improved blood flow to the brain in those who had problems to start with.
Those participants whose blood flow improved also did better on memory tests at the end of the study, the journal Neurology reported.
Experts said more research was needed before conclusions could be drawn.
It is not the first time cocoa has been linked with vascular health and researchers believe that this is in part due to it being rich in flavanols, which are thought to have an important role.
In the latest study, researchers asked 60 people with an average age of 73 to drink two cups of cocoa a day – one group given high-flavanol cocoa and another a low-flavanol cocoa – and consume no other chocolate.
Drinking cocoa every day may help older people keep their brains healthy
Ultrasound tests at the start of the study showed 17 of them had impaired blood flow to the brain.
There was no difference between those who drank flavanol-rich cocoa and those who had flavanol-poor cocoa.
But whichever drink they were given, 88% of those with impaired blood flow at the start of the study saw improvements in blood flow and some cognitive tests, compared with 37% of people whose blood flow was normal at the beginning of the study.
MRI scans in 24 participants found that people with impaired blood flow were also more likely to have tiny areas of brain damage.
“We’re learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills,” said study author Dr. Farzaneh Sorond a neurologist at Harvard Medical School.
“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
The researchers said the lack of difference between the flavanol-rich and flavanol-poor cocoa could be because another component of the drink was having an effect or because only small amounts were needed.