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Shortage of sleep increases chance of dementia

A lifestyle with too little sleep is likely to lead to dementia, neuroscientists at Columbia University write in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra. The researchers discovered that of all over 65s who have a chronic lack of sleep, almost half are likely to develop dementia within a few years.

Shortage of sleep increases chance of dementia

The researchers studied 1041 over 65s who did not have dementia. Just before the study started the researchers asked the participants whether they were getting enough sleep and whether they felt rested during the day. After that the researchers followed the participants for three years.

At the end of the three years, 78 participants [7.2 percent] had been diagnosed as having dementia. The participants with sleep problems in particular developed dementia. The chance of participants in this group developing dementia was 1.2 times higher than those who had no sleep problems.

You could argue that a 20 percent higher chance is nothing to get excited about. But the chance of developing dementia was much higher among the participants with serious sleep problems, as you can see in the figure below. Of the participants who said that none of the time did they get enough sleep, almost forty percent developed dementia.

Shortage of sleep increases chance of dementia

The correlation between sleepiness during the daytime and dementia was even stronger than the correlation between too little sleep and dementia. About half of the participants who said they were sleepy "all the time” during the day developed dementia during the course of the study.

Shortage of sleep increases chance of dementia

"Our study suggests that sleep inadequacy and increased daytime sleepiness are risk factors for dementia, [...] in the elderly population, independent of demographics, clinical factors, and depression", the researchers wrote. "Our findings may have significant public health implications and expand upon previous findings."

"However, further investigation is needed in order to replicate these findings and further examine the possible biological mechanisms underlying the observed associations. Investigation of such mechanisms could allow future interventional studies to provide us with more convincing evidence for the importance of good sleep quality in relation to the risk of dementia."

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord Extra 2015;5:286-95.

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