A new comprehensive study of sleep disorders in the elderly was conducted by scientists at Concordia University. The team found that middle-aged and older adults suffering from symptoms of insomnia were more likely to develop memory disorders such as dementia.
Using data from the Canadian Longitudinal Aging Study, experts were able to collect information on more than 26,000 adults aged 45 to 85.
To conduct the analysis, the researchers compared self-reported estimates obtained during the initial report in 2019 and the subsequent assessment in 2022. They found that people with worse sleep quality over the three years between assessments were more likely to report memory loss.
“We found that insomnia was specifically associated with poorer memory performance compared to those who had only some symptoms of insomnia or had no sleep problems at all. This memory deficit was specific because we also looked at other cognitive functions such as attention span and multitasking. We only found differences in memory,” said study co-author Nathan Cross, a postdoctoral fellow at the Sleep, Cognition and Neuroimaging Laboratory.
According to the analysis, people with worsening insomnia experienced more psychological distress, including depression and anxiety, due to their insomnia. They were also more likely to have a higher body mass index and smoke. Researchers have found that women with insomnia perform better than men with the condition, putting men at greater risk of developing memory loss.
“This highlights the importance of correctly diagnosing and treating insomnia as early as possible in the elderly. Adequate treatment of insomnia can be an important measure to prevent cognitive decline and mitigate dementia later in life,” Cross said.
The study is published in the journal SLEEP.