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Apr 27, 2021
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Lack of sleep in middle age is a risk factor for future dementia

Sleep and dementia

Disturbances in sleep patterns often accompany Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists speculate that the altered sleep-wake cycle is a consequence of changes in the brain that are characteristic of this neurodegenerative disease.

Sleep duration is another aspect that is associated with the risk of dementia. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with the risk of cognitive impairment, and in old age, a decrease in sleep duration is associated with the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists were at a loss to say whether sleep disturbances are an early symptom of dementia, or whether they are a risk factor.

Changes in the body that are associated with dementia develop over 20 years or more. However, most of the older research did not last longer than 10 years. The longest studies usually involved people 65 years of age and older. Therefore, the relationship between sleep disturbances at a younger age and dementia has hardly been studied.

Long-term study confirms the role of sleep deprivation

In a new study, scientists analyzed data that were obtained by observing approximately 8,000 Britons for at least 25 years. The duration of sleep of the study participants was known from their words. In addition, some of them wore sleep trackers for some time to objectively measure sleep duration.

At the beginning of the study, the study participants were 50-60 years old. His results showed that people who sleep no more than 6 hours a day at this age have an increased risk of dementia compared to those who sleep at least 7 hours.

People 50-70 years old who regularly slept little, the risk of dementia increased by 30%, regardless of whether they had other risk factors for its development.

“The likelihood that almost three decades before the onset of dementia, sleep disturbances were a symptom of it is really low. Therefore, this is an excellent study that provides evidence that sleep disorders are indeed a risk factor. [деменции]”Professor Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times.”

However, the study authors themselves note that the design of this study does not allow us to accurately state whether lack of sleep was the cause of dementia in the participants.

“Many of us have experienced poor nighttime sleep and probably know that it can affect our memory and thinking in the short term. Whether sleep patterns have a long-term impact on dementia risk is an intriguing question, ”said Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Imaricio added that today there is no “magic bullet” to prevent dementia. However, scientific evidence indicates that quitting smoking, controlling alcohol consumption, physical and mental activity, and a good diet are factors that contribute to healthy aging of the brain.


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