A ‘vicious cycle’ between long daytime napping and Alzheimer’s disease

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Daytime napping is common among older adults. The longitudinal relationship between daytime napping and cognitive aging, however, is unknown.

In a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, scientists 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.

There are conflicting results regarding the effects of daytime napping on cognition in older adults.

Whereas some studies have shown that daytime napping has benefits on acute cognitive performance, mood, and alertness, other studies have highlighted the adverse outcomes on cognitive performance.

In the study, the team tested two hypotheses: (1) Participants nap longer and/or more frequently with aging and the changes are even faster with the progression of Alzheimer’s dementia;

and (2) participants with excessive daytime napping are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia.

The team used data from over 1,000 individuals, with an average age of 81. They were provided Actical, a watch-like device, to wear on their non-dominant wrist for up to 14 days.

The researchers found that nap duration and nap frequency were linked to age and they found a bi-directional, long-term link between daytime sleep and Alzheimer’s dementia.

Longer and more frequent daytime naps were a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s dementia in cognitively normal older men and women.

Besides, increases in napping duration and frequency were accelerated as the disease progressed, especially after the clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Ultimately, the researchers describe the relationship between daytime napping and cognition to be a “vicious cycle.”

The team hopes 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.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the likely cause of Alzheimer’s disease and new non-drug treatment that could help prevent Alzheimer’s.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may help prevent Alzheimer’s, and results showing that some dementia cases could be prevented by changing these 12 things.

The study was conducted by Peng Li et al and published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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