Too many of us ignore the importance of getting a good night's rest. That's especially true at midlife, when so many responsibilities - work, family, friends - keep us busy and often up late.
But there's growing evidence that inadequate rest could increase your risk of serious health problems in the years ahead. Four new studies presented this week at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer's Association in Vancouver suggest a link between the quality of sleep and mental deterioration.
One study found that getting too little or too much rest was the equivalent of two years of brain aging. Other studies linked apnea, a breathing disorder, with dementia and daytime sleepiness with cognitive decline.
The largest study looked at data from more than 15,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study. Researchers found that women who slept fewer than five hours or more than nine hours had lower mental functioning that women who slept seven hours a day. Sleep changes in midlife appeared to be especially predictive of mental decline.
If you're having problems sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible solutions, including a sleep study to figure out what's wrong.