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July 06, 2022 2 min read

A Rush University Medical Center study on 1401 participants showed a relationship between daytime napping and Alzheimer’s dementia. Incredibly, the study was done with an up to 14 year follow-up and the connection appears to be in both directions. This means that people who had longer and more frequent napping had worse cognition after 1 year. This reduced cognition correlated to longer and more frequent napping!

 

According to the study, Alzheimer’s dementia is “really a multi-system disorder, also including difficulty sleeping, changes in movement, changes in body composition, depression symptoms, behavioral changes, etc.”

Participants wore a wrist-worn sensor that recorded activity continuously for up to 10 days, and came in once a year for examinations and cognitive testing. Any prolonged period of no activity during the daytime from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. was considered a nap.

When the study started, more than 75% of participants showed no signs of any cognitive impairment, 19.5% had mild cognitive impairment and slightly more than 4% had Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

Daily napping increased by about 11 minutes per year among those who didn’t develop cognitive impairment during follow-up. Naps doubled after a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, and nearly tripled after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

Researchers also compared participants who had normal cognition at the start of the study but developed Alzheimer’s disease dementia to their counterparts whose thinking remained stable during the study. They found that older people who napped more than an hour a day had a 40% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The researchers conducting the study emphasized that this does not mean that napping will cause Alzheimer’s dementia, but that the same ‘pathologies may contribute to both’.

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the accumulation of two proteins, amyloid beta and tau, within the brain. While the decline in cognitive function is the most well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, this protein accumulation can occur in various locations of the brain, brainstem and spinal cord, causing a variety of symptoms.

The study indicates that increases in the frequency and duration of daytime napping may be one of those symptoms.

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