Early and longer sleep is linked to increased risk of dementia, study finds

Staying up late and sleeping less than eight hours lowers the risk of dementia, scientists say: Going to bed earlier and sleeping longer can be bad for brain health.

  • Older people who go to bed earlier and sleep longer are more likely to develop dementia, new study finds
  • Those who go to bed before 9 p.m. each night and sleep more than eight hours each night suffer a 70% greater risk.
  • Researchers believe these sleep habits are an early warning sign that a person will eventually develop the cognitive condition.
  • Researchers have previously noted that disruptions and strange sleep habits are a sign of poor brain health among some Americans.

Going to bed early for a long night’s rest could increase an older person’s risk of developing dementia, according to a new study.

A Chinese research team from Shandong University in the country’s northeastern region found that people over 60 who went to bed before 9 p.m. each night and slept more than eight hours on average they had a greater risk of developing dementia than their peers who slept less and stayed up later.

Although quality sleep is often linked to good brain health, this study shows that there is a risk that a person oversleeps. Experts also often warn that older people who start sleeping more than usual may be showing an early sign that they will develop dementia.

Researchers believe that older people who suddenly start sleeping for extended periods of time should be monitored and screened for dementia in an effort to start treatment earlier.

Researchers found that older people who sleep earlier and for more than eight hours at a time are 70% more likely to develop dementia than their peers (file photo)

The research team, which published its findings Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, collected sleep data from nearly 2,000 participants aged 60 to 74.

Each answered questions about their usual sleep and was assessed to measure their cognitive function.

They were followed for about four years on average to assess their sleep patterns and current brain health.

Over the four-year period, the researchers found that those who frequently slept for longer hours were 70 percent more likely to develop the devastating cognitive condition.

While this study may come as a surprise, since quality sleep each night is often associated with quality brain health, experts have long warned that abnormal sleep patterns are often indicators that a person will suffer a cognitive impairment.

Experts consider excessive sleep, insomnia, and sleep disruptions to be key early indicators that a person will eventually develop cognitive conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or dementia in the future.

Sometimes it’s the first symptom to appear, sometimes years before a person realizes anything else is wrong.

A study published earlier this month by Stanford University researchers found that a person’s sleep age, which is more closely related to sleep interruptions than sleep duration, could accurately predict mortality risk and cognitive health.

Experts recommend that people avoid exercise, large meals, alcohol or caffeine right before bed, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, and avoid naps to help prevent sleep fragmentation, which increases their risk of developing cognitive problems later on.

Experts recommend that people avoid exercise, large meals, alcohol or caffeine right before bed, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, and avoid naps to help prevent sleep fragmentation, which increases their risk of developing cognitive problems later on.

“Going to bed and waking up at regular times is key to improving sleep,” she explained.

“That means not oversleeping, but making sure you’re fully rested. It’s a different amount for everyone and often the window varies slightly, for example being a night owl versus an early bird.

“Get exposure to solid light, preferably outdoor light, during the day, keep the sleep environment dark at night, exercise regularly but not too close to bedtime, don’t drink alcohol and caffeine at bedtime and avoiding heavy meals during the night contribute to healthy sleep,” said Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, a professor of sleep medicine at Stanford who contributed to the study in Neuroscience News .

Other experts have also advised people not to nap too late in the afternoon so as not to disrupt their nighttime sleep and make them go to bed at an abnormal time.

Large meals within two hours of going to bed are also recommended.

Mignot also says that a person who thinks they have a sleep problem should consult a doctor, as sometimes medical intervention — not just behavioral changes — is necessary for a person to improve their sleep.

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