Lack of Enough Sleep is A Dementia Risk, Study Shows

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A recent study suggests that maintaining good sleep could promote brain health in old age. The research indicates that issues like difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and the use of sleep medication might raise the likelihood of dementia development.

Insomnia considered a risk to dementia

The study aimed to explore the connection between insomnia, dementia risk, and sleep medication usage. The lead researcher, Roger Wong, said that they were surprised to discover that while sleep-initiation insomnia and sleep medication usage were expected to raise dementia risk, sleep-maintenance insomnia was actually linked to a decreased risk of dementia.

According to the author, he was motivated by personal concern for his’s father’s chronic sleep issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and their potential impact on future cognition. The author was surprised by conflicting findings in existing literature regarding the connection between sleep and dementia, leading them to undertake an investigation into this subject.

This study is the first to investigate the connection between prolonged sleep issues and the risk of dementia, using a representative group of older Americans. Previous research has associated reduced cognitive function with factors such as sleep deprivation, REM sleep, and the utilization of short-acting benzodiazepines. These medications, often called “benzos,” are prescribed for anxiety or to enhance sleep for individuals with insomnia.

Adequate sleep as a dementia prevention strategy

The study utilized 10-year prospective data (2011-2020) from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), which surveys a representative sample of US Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and above. Participants without dementia at baseline in 2011 were included. As dementia lacks a cure and existing treatments show limited effectiveness, researchers are exploring various breakthroughs. Identifying controllable factors, such as adequate sleep, could contribute to prevention strategies.

It is important to note that sleep issues experienced by older adults have diverse causes and effects. Dr. Wong emphasizes the need for further research to comprehend these factors and minimize potential long-term effects. The study underscores the significance of factoring in sleep disruption history when evaluating dementia risk in older individuals.

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