Mid-life insomnia and short sleep are linked to higher dementia risk

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A recent study published in Age and Ageing has revealed a concerning connection between insomnia, short sleep duration, and an elevated risk of dementia.

The research, conducted by Xiao Tan and colleagues from Zhejiang University School of Public Health in China, analyzed data from 22,078 participants in the Swedish National March Cohort who were initially free from dementia and stroke.

The study, which spanned a median of 19.2 years, utilized national registries to determine dementia incidence.

Insomnia Symptoms and Dementia Risk

The study found that individuals who reported any insomnia symptom at the study’s outset experienced a higher incidence of dementia during the follow-up period compared to those without insomnia symptoms (hazard ratio [HR] of 1.08).

Specifically, difficulty initiating sleep was associated with a significant increase in the risk of dementia (HR of 1.24), while difficulty maintaining sleep or early morning awakening did not show a significant association.

Short Sleep Duration and Dementia Risk

Short sleep duration also emerged as a risk factor for dementia. Individuals who slept six hours compared to eight hours had a 1.29-fold higher risk of developing dementia, and those who slept five hours versus eight hours had a 1.26-fold higher risk.

Interestingly, insomnia symptoms appeared to compound the risk of dementia among individuals who slept at least seven hours but not among those who slept less than seven hours.

Among participants with insomnia, short sleep duration did not further increase the risk of dementia.

Implications and Recommendations

The study’s findings suggest that assessing sleep patterns, including both sleep duration and the frequency of nocturnal insomnia symptoms, during middle age may be crucial for identifying individuals at a higher risk of dementia.

Such assessments could be recommended as part of public health practices to facilitate early intervention and improve long-term health outcomes.

Understanding the relationship between sleep disturbances and dementia is essential for developing strategies to mitigate the risk and provide better care for affected individuals.

Further research is needed to explore the underlying mechanisms of this association and to refine recommendations for maintaining healthy sleep habits throughout life.

If you care about sleep, please read studies about the science on 3 traditional bedtime remedies, and this sleep supplement may help prevent memory loss and cognitive decline.

For more information about sleep, please see recent studies about how to sleep to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing scientists find silent sleep danger for smokers.

The research findings can be found in Age and Ageing.

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