Sleep has always been known to be the brains housekeeper. While you chase beautiful women or sit on a beach in your dreams your body is working hard to repair and restore the brain. This is why we sleep. But a new study in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology has found that sleep difficulties may be linked to faster rates of declining brain volume – its size.

The study evaluated 147 adults between the ages of 20 and 84 and examined the links between sleep difficulties, which include having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night and their brain sizes/volumes. Each participant had two MRI brain scans, an average of 3.5 years apart, before answering a questionnaire about their sleeping habits.

Of the total participant size, 35% of them matched the specifications to be classified as having poor sleep quality as they scored an average of 8.5 out of 21 points on the sleep assessment. This assessment included how long people slept, how long it took them to fall asleep, whether they used any sleeping medications, and other factors.

What the study found in the end is that those that suffered with sleep difficulties were linked to a more rapid decline in brain volume over the course of the study in numerous brain regions such as the frontal, temporal, and parietal areas. These results were more prominent in participants over the age of 60.

“It is not yet known whether poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of changes in brain structure,” said study author Claire E. Sexton, DPhil, with the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “There are effective treatments for sleep problems, so future research needs to test whether improving people’s quality of sleep could slow the rate of brain volume loss. If that is the case, improving people’s sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health.”

Having trouble sleeping and worried about a shrinking brain? Try working out before bed for a better sleep.

Less sleep has also been linked to weight gain and you shouldn’t be watching TV in bed as it worsens your sleep rather take some advice on how to get ready for a great nights sleep.