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February 28, 2023

Poor Sleep and Dementia Risk

Poor Sleep and Dementia Risk. Poor sleep may contribute to an increased risk of dementia later in life. In a recent study, researchers found that people who slept six hours or less were 30 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who regularly slept seven hours or more.

The study involved a large number of participants and examined data for more than 25 years. It also controlled for several factors believed to contribute to dementia, including smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, body mass, education level, and health conditions such as diabetes and mental illness.

Sleep Patterns

Mounting evidence suggests that disrupted sleep patterns significantly correlate with an increased risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. This is because poor sleep disrupts the brain’s ability to remove plaque-like substances that may form in the brain of someone with dementia.

Healthy adults typically go through four or five different sleep cycles during a night’s rest. These cycles include stages of REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM) sleep.

During REM sleep, the brain is at its most active and the body experiences a rapid, irregular rhythm of muscle activity. During NREM sleep, your body goes through several phases, including the first stage, N1, and the second stage, N2.

A comprehensive study involving approximately 8,000 individuals in Britain revealed a compelling association between shorter sleep duration in midlife and an elevated risk of dementia, a relationship corroborated by long-term follow-up analyses. The authors suggest that public health messages to encourage good sleep hygiene may be particularly important in those at a higher risk of dementia.

Sleeping Habits

One of the most important ways to reduce your dementia risk is by getting enough sleep. Beyond fatigue, scientific research illuminates the profound impact of sleep on cognitive functions, encompassing memory, thinking skills, and overall brain functionality.

Insufficient sleep is a risk factor for dementia because it can increase the production of misfolded proteins, such as beta-amyloid plaques, that form in the brain and cause Alzheimer’s disease. During sleep, the intricate dance of fluid flow in the brain plays a role in clearing surplus proteins, a crucial process for optimal brain health.

A new study followed nearly 8,000 people for 25 years and found that those who got six hours or less of sleep per night at age 50 and 60 had a 30% increased risk of dementia than those who slept seven hours. The findings were independent of sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors.


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Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are a broad category of problems that affect how much, or how well, you sleep. They include a variety of symptoms, including having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, feeling restless or drowsy during the day, and having an irregular sleep-wake cycle.

Within the realm of sleep disruptions, conditions like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) emerge as culprits, interrupting the natural rhythm of breathing during slumber. Others are related to a change in the brain’s rhythm.

Compelling evidence from multiple studies establishes a significant correlation between inadequate sleep and an elevated risk of developing dementia. However, these relationships are often small and imprecise. This may be because of a lack of statistical power.


Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Studies have found that even a single night of poorly sleeping can cause issues with memory function and thinking.

But long-term sleep problems may increase a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia in the future, according to new research from researchers at the University of California-San Francisco. In fact, middle-aged people who reported getting less than six hours of sleep per night were more likely to develop dementia than those who slept seven or more hours each night.

The study followed nearly 8,000 people for 25 years, beginning when they were 50 years old. It found that those who consistently reported getting less than six hours of sleep per week were about 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

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