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Dementia: The common sleep habit 'associated' with a doubled risk of developing dementia

March 28, 2022 2 min read

DEMENTIA rates are growing at full pelt, and current countermeasures may not suffice to curb these trends. Symptoms of the disease include debilitating confusion and loss of cognitive sharpness. One sleeping habit could increase the risk of decline twofold, according to one body of research.

Dementia has a crippling effect on its sufferers, gradually hampering their memory and robbing them of their independence. Significant improvements in dementia care are helping soften the impact of the disease on patient groups and their families, but no drug is able to halt brain decline. Fortunately, preventive measures against the disease are extensive. The findings of one study imply that sleeping less than five hours each night could have dire consequences for one’s brain.

A study conducted by the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders in 2021 explored the association between a host of sleep disturbances and the risk of dementia.

The findings revealed the risk of dementia was double among people who reported getting less than five hours per night, compared to those who got seven to eight hours of sleep.

Researchers have previously theorized that a lack of sleep means the brain doesn’t have enough time to drain away beta-amyloid protein, and other waste substances.

Amyloid plaque, which constitutes toxic protein deposits lodged between brain cells, is one of the hallmarks of dementia.

Previous research has established that losing one single night of sleep could lead to an increase in beta-amyloid protein in the brain.

The lead author of the study, Rebecca Robbins, of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders: “Our findings illuminate a connection between sleep deficiency and risk of dementia and confirm the importance of efforts to help older individuals obtain sufficient sleep each night."

The findings, published in the journal Ageing in 2021, were deduced from data on older adults partaking in the National Health and Ageing Trends study.

Data were available for 2,610 participants, who answered sleep questionnaires in 2013 and 2014.

“These data add to the evidence that sleep is important for brain health and highlight the need for further research on the efficacy of improving sleep and treating sleep disorders on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mortality.

Stuart Quan, MD, of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, added: “Our study demonstrates that very short sleep durations and poor-quality sleep in the elderly increase the risk of developing dementia and earlier death.

“There should be an increased focus on obtaining healthy sleep in older adults.”

Dara released by YouGov in 2020 revealed that one in three Britons report getting seven hours of sleep at night, while a further 27 percent get only six hours and 12 percent subsist with just five hours.

As efforts mount to find a cure for dementia, the focus remains largely on the prevention of amyloid formation, and the findings of the study confirm sleep may be key to this.Improvements in education access are also aiming to reduce the prevalence of the disease, but expected increases in obesity and high blood sugar and smoking may hamper these efforts.

Predictions from the Global Burden of Disease forecast a rise in caseloads in every country by 2050, with the largest growth in North Africa and the Middle East.

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