Nightly sleep of 5 hours, less, may increase risk of dementia

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In a new study, researchers examined the connection between sleep disturbances and deficiencies among older adults and the risk of dementia and death.

They found that the risk of dementia was double among participants who reported getting less than five hours of sleep compared to those who reported 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

The team also found associations between sleep disturbance and sleep deficiency with the overall risk of death.

The research was conducted by a team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In the study, the team used nationally representative data collected from older adults participating in the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS).

NHATS is a longitudinal study of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older.

A sample of 2,610 participants answered sleep questionnaires in 2013 and 2014.

The team found a strong link between several sleep disturbance and deficiency variables and incident dementia over time.

Routinely taking 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep was linked to a 45% greater risk for incident dementia.

Routinely experiencing difficulty in maintaining alertness, routinely napping, reporting poor sleep quality, and sleeping five or fewer hours per night was also linked to increased risk of death.

The team says that sleep deficiency at baseline, when the average age of participants was 76 years old, was linked to double the risk of incident dementia and all-cause mortality over the next 4 to 5 years.

These findings add to the evidence that sleep is important for brain health and highlight the need for further research on the efficacy of improving sleep and treating sleep disorders on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mortality.

The authors call for further study of the causal relationship between sleep and dementia and death, as insights may lead to a new lens through which to view sleep among older adults.

One author of the study is Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D. from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.

The study is published in Aging.

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