New research finds significant links between three measures of sleep disturbance and the risk for developing dementia over a 10-year period. The results associate sleep-initiation insomnia (trouble falling asleep within 30 minutes) and sleep medication use with higher risk for developing dementia. The investigators also found that people who reported having sleep-maintenance insomnia (trouble falling back to sleep after waking) were less likely to develop dementia over the course of the study.
“We expected sleep-initiation insomnia and sleep medication usage to increase dementia risk, but we were surprised to find sleep-maintenance insomnia decreased dementia risk,” explained lead investigator Roger Wong.
This study used 10 annual waves (2011-2020) of prospective data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study. This study included only people who were dementia-free at baseline in 2011.
When talking about approaches to treat dementia co-investigator Margaret Anne Lovier says: “By focusing on the variations in sleep disturbances, our findings can help to inform lifestyle changes that can reduce dementia risk”.
While the mechanism for decreased dementia risk among those with sleep-maintenance insomnia is still unknown, the investigators theorize that greater engagement in activities that preserve or increase cognitive reserve may thereby decrease 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,” added Dr. Wong. “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.”
Roger Wong, Margaret Anne Lovier. Sleep Disturbances and Dementia Risk in Older Adults: Findings From 10 Years of National U.S. Prospective Data. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2023.01.008
Elsevier. “Trouble falling asleep at bedtime or in the middle of the night? It could impact your risk for developing dementia.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/03/230306143443.htm>.
Photo by Minh Ngoc