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Study: Elderly people who lack sleep are at increased risk of dementia

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Elderly people who get little sleep each night may be at increased risk of dementia and premature death, according to a new study.

Researchers say that among 2,600 older Americans, those who are considered “short sleeps” (who can only sleep within five hours at night) will develop dementia or die in the next five years. I found it likely.

Their risk was usually twice that of older people who received the recommended 7-8 hour shut eye.

This study, recently published in the journal Aging, is not the first study to link disastrous health consequences, including sleep deprivation and dementia.

But according to Rebecca Robins, a researcher in the sleep and circadian rhythm department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the study points to a particularly troublesome criminal.

“Since we looked at a series of sleep characteristics, could we ask what was most important?” Robins said. “The clear answer was a short sleep.”

Among these study participants, it was more important than self-assessed sleep quality, or whether they took a long time to fall asleep at night, or whether they felt moody during the day or took a nap. Whether you tend to need.

The study found that short sleep also seemed to be more important than snoring. Chronic snoring is a sign of sleep apnea and is associated with both heart disease and dementia.

Still, findings do not prove that short sleep itself can cause dementia or help shave for years from people’s lives.

“In some cases, sleep deprivation may not be the cause, but may actually be an early sign of dementia,” said Dr. Sabra Abbott, an assistant professor of sleep medicine neurology at Northwestern University’s Fineberg School of Medicine in Chicago. There is. “

Abbott, who was not involved in the study, said sleep could be interrupted for multiple reasons early in the dementia process.

As an example, she pointed to a structure in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SN). It helps regulate sleep timing and the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. SN can begin to degenerate in the early stages of dementia.

Robins also pointed out that dementia can cause sleep problems, and she and her colleagues tried to explain it. They ruled out older people who already had dementia at the beginning of the study and statistically described other health conditions that participants had, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and symptoms of depression. did.

They found that short sleep was still associated with a two-fold increased risk of dying or developing dementia during the study period.

The results are based on 2,610 Americans over the age of 65 who participated in a nationally representative health survey. More than half reported getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. About 4% said it was within 5 hours.

Over the next five years, 321 study participants screened positively for dementia.

There was no evidence that long sleep (at least 9 hours per night) was associated with an increased risk of dementia and death. When researchers explained their chronic health, it seemed to explain something to do with it.

Robins said there was reason to believe that lack of sleep could damage the brain. Animal studies have shown that good sleep may be important for the brain to get rid of abnormal proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“There is certainly reason to suspect that lack of sleep may exacerbate dementia in sensitive people,” Abbott said.

But in general, she said, it’s difficult to know if sleep deprivation causes or is part of the symptoms of brain disease.

That question remains, but Robins said it was wise to work for a healthy sleep habit. She made some suggestions:

  • Keep your TV or device away from your bedroom. “Let the bedroom lie down and sleep alone.”
  • Avoid looking at bright screens near bedtime. The blue light can upset the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
  • Get plenty of sunlight during the day to support its natural rhythm. “Fresh air and sunlight are like natural medicine,” Robins said. If you can’t get out, she said sitting by the window can help.

Abbott agreed that sleep deprivation needs to be addressed. But she added, “Remember that the solution may not be as simple as trying to increase sleep.”

She advised people with chronic sleep dissatisfaction to undergo a medical evaluation as there may be curable underlying causes such as sleep apnea.

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