MAR 06, 2023 5:45 PM PST

Long-term Sleep Disturbances Increase Dementia Risk

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Long-term sleep disturbances may increase dementia risk. The corresponding study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 

Increasing evidence suggests that sleep disturbances are a risk factor for dementia. One study has found that 5 hours of sleep per night may increase dementia risk by 30% in adults aged 50 years and older. Studies also show that poor sleep impedes prefrontal cortex function and sleep’s ability to maintain cognitive health. Other research suggests that sleep medications, including benzodiazepines and z-hypnotic sleep drugs, are also linked to increased dementia risk. 

In the present study, researchers investigated the link between multiple longitudinal measures of sleep disturbance and dementia risk in 6, 284 participants with an average age of 76.3 years old. In particular, they compared self-reported sleep measures with rates of dementia diagnosis. Around 13.6% of respondents received a dementia diagnosis during the study period. 

In the end, the researchers found that participants who had trouble falling asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed had a 51% increased risk of dementia. Sleep medication usage was also linked to a 30% increased dementia risk, and insomnia was linked to a 40% increased dementia risk. 

“Older adults are losing sleep over a wide variety of concerns. More research is needed to better understand its causes and manifestations and limit the long-term consequences,” said lead investigator Roger Wong, Ph.D., MPH, MSW, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA, in a press release

 “Our findings highlight the importance of considering sleep disturbance history when assessing the dementia risk profile for older adults. Future research is needed to examine other sleep disturbance measures using a national longitudinal sample, whether these sleep-dementia findings hold true for specific dementia subtypes, and how certain sociodemographic characteristics may interact with sleep disturbances to influence dementia risk,” he added. 

Sources: EurekAlert, American Journal of Preventive Medicine

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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