Daytime napping is common among older adults. The longitudinal link between daytime napping and cognitive aging, however, is unknown.
In a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers found a bidirectional link between the two:
Excessive daytime napping predicted an increased future risk of Alzheimer’s dementia, and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia sped up the increase in daytime napping during aging.
The results not only suggest that excessive daytime napping may signal an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s dementia, but they also show that a faster yearly increase in daytime napping may be a sign of deteriorating or unfavored clinical progression of the disease.
The study calls for closer attention to 24-hour sleep patterns—not only night-time sleep but also daytime sleep—for health monitoring in older adults.
There are conflicting results regarding the effects of daytime napping on cognition in older adults.
In the study, the team used data from the ongoing Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP). Over 1,000 individuals, with an average age of 81, were provided Actical, a watch-like device, to wear on their non-dominant wrist for up to 14 days.
After napping episodes were identified, the nap duration and frequency were calculated.
The team found that nap duration and nap frequency were positively correlated with age and found a bi-directional, long-term link between daytime sleep and Alzheimer’s dementia.
They found longer and more frequent daytime naps were a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s dementia in cognitively normal older men and women.
Besides, annual increases in napping duration and frequency were accelerated as the disease progressed, especially after the clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s dementia.
Ultimately, the authors describe the link between daytime napping and cognition to be a “vicious cycle.”
Their hope is to draw more attention to daytime sleep patterns and the importance of patients noting if their sleep schedule is changing over time.
Sleep changes are critical in shaping the internal changes in the brain related to circadian clocks, cognitive decline, and the risk of dementia.
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The study is published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and was conducted by Peng Li et al.
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