Insomnia steals your memory decades down the road

It’s always nice to bring an entire week’s worth of conversations full circle, and wrap it up with a neat little bow. And, well… that’s exactly what I’m about to do today. 

On Monday, I shared new research showing that memory loss isn’t inevitable with age. Then we talked about how caffeine can’t reverse the cognitive effects of sleep loss—and how it might actually pose its own risks to your brain 

So, today, let’s keep our focus on the detrimental effects of poor sleep—and talk a little bit more about how much is at stake, at least, where your memory is concerned… 

Insomnia tonight, cognitive decline tomorrow 

This latest study looked at data from nearly 2,500 participants of the Health and Retirement Study, all of whom were at least 51 years old and reported on their insomnia frequency back in 2002. 

In 2016, researchers assessed cognition using a comprehensive battery of tests—they looked at episodic memory, executive function, language, vision, and processing speed. They also adjusted for sociodemographic factors and baseline cognitive performance at the start of the study.   

Of course, what they found shouldn’t surprise you. But let’s take a look… 

Results showed that when subjects had trouble falling asleep in 2002, they were more likely to wind up with cognitive impairment 14 years later, in 2016. This was especially true where episodic memory, executive function, language, processing speed, and visuospatial performance were concerned.  

Researchers were able to explain some of this decline due to depressive symptoms and vascular diseases. (Both of which have strong ties to poor sleep themselves.) But the link between poor sleep and cognitive decline remains pretty clear, regardless. 

Reach for drug-free relief  

Anyone who has ever struggled with insomnia knows the routine: You can’t fall or stay asleep—or you wake up earlier than you want to, despite every effort to stay in bed. As a result, you wind up running on fumes all day long… only to repeat the cycle all over again the next night.  

It’s a significant drain on your energy, your mood, and your health. And as this study shows, it adds up to serious trouble for your memory and cognitive function, too—not just the next day, but decades down the road.  

This is both bad and good news, of course. Bad news because sleep problems are easily one of the most common issues I field as a doctor. And good news because they’re also fixable—which is especially important, given how few solutions we have for Alzheimer’s and dementia.  

So, I encourage you to start dealing with your sleep problems TODAY… and help save yourself from a devastating diagnosis ten years from now. Whatever you do, just don’t turn to popular sleep aids for help.  

As I’ve explained here before, a number of over-the-counter sleep aids actually increase your risk of dementia.   

I covered all of these dangers back in the August 2016 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Four terrifying reasons you should never taking sleeping pills”). Subscribers have access to that issue and more in my archives—so if you haven’t yet, as always, consider signing up today 


“Having trouble falling asleep predicts cognitive impairment in later life: Study identifies an insomnia symptom that could be an intervention target for dementia prevention.” Science Daily, 06/09/2021. (