Sleep disturbances linked to higher dementia risk, study finds: ScienceAlert

If you needed another reminder of the importance of quality sleep for our health and well-being, a new study has linked three specific sleep problems to a change in the risk of developing dementia.

Use of sleeping pills and the ability to fall asleep quickly (sleep initiation insomnia) are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia over a 10-year period, the researchers found, while having trouble sleeping going back to sleep after waiting (sleep maintenance insomnia) is associated with a reduced risk of dementia.

The results are noteworthy because this is the first study to examine the relationship between dementia risk and long-term sleep disturbance in a nationally representative sample of older adults in the United States. Its conclusions deserve attention, joining those of studies using smaller samples.

“After reading the existing literature, I was surprised to see mixed results on the relationship between sleep and dementia, so I decided to investigate this topic,” says Roger Wong, a public health scientist at State University of New York Upstate Medical University.

“We expected that sleep initiation insomnia and sleeping pill use would increase the risk of dementia, but we were surprised to find that sleep maintenance insomnia reduced the risk of dementia.”

Researchers looked at a decade of data from a longitudinal panel study called the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), specifically on 6,284 adults over the age of 65 who lived in the community and had not been diagnosed. dementia at the time. beginning of the study period.

The most dramatic link was with sleep onset insomnia: those who reported it had a 51% higher risk of dementia. The researchers note that this increase was reduced when socio-demographic and health factors were taken into consideration, however, to the point that it was is no longer statistically significant.

For sleeping pills, statistics showed a 30% increase in dementia risk (after socio-demographic adjustments but before health adjustments).

On the other hand, there were 40 percent decreases dementia risk (after controlling for sociodemographic and health variables) for sleep maintenance insomnia.

It is this last figure that most surprised the researchers. The team suggests that more time awake could keep cognitive functions running, without necessarily negatively impacting the quality of sleep accumulated throughout the night – a suggestion mirrored in previous studies.

“By focusing on variations in sleep disturbances, our findings can help shed light on lifestyle changes that can reduce dementia risk,” says Upstate University of New York researcher Margaret Anne Lovier. Medical University.

This study alone is not enough to prove cause and effect – that sleep problems cause dementia – but it does highlight a relationship between the two that researchers and doctors need to be aware of. . It should also be noted that sleep disturbances are common in people with dementia and in the elderly.

The results could be used to better assess the risk of dementia in older people. The researchers also called for further study of the relationship between sleep disturbances and specific types of dementia, which this investigation did not explore.

“Older people lose sleep over a wide variety of issues,” Wong says. “Further research is needed to better understand its causes and manifestations and limit the long-term consequences.”

The research was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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