One of the common symptoms of dementia onset is altered sleep, with research increasingly suggesting that sleep patterns may contribute to the disease.
Time spent sleeping has reportedly been linked to dementia risk in older adults (65-plus), but it’s unclear whether this association is also true for younger age groups.
Now, a study by UK researchers has shown that those who sleep less than six hours per night may be at a higher risk of dementia later in life, including those under the age of 65 years.
The study, which was published this week in Nature Communications, included nearly 8000 British adults who were involved in a healthy study since 1985, with researchers assessing and comparing their sleep data with data of those who went on to be diagnosed with dementia.
Participants were assessed at 50, 60 and 70 years of age and it was found that at all ages, less sleep was associated with a high risk of dementia – those who consistently slept less throughout the years had a 30% increased risk of dementia, irrespective of other cardiometabolic or mental health issues.
While this observational study cannot prove that lack of sleep directly causes dementia – it only shows that there is a link between sleep duration and dementia risk – the findings suggest sleep may be important for brain health, particularly in midlife.
Future research may be able to establish whether improving sleep habits may help prevent dementia.
To read the research, visit: nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22354-2