Sleeping patterns linked to risk of dementia

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and INSERM – the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research – have led a collaborative study into links between a lack of sleep in middle age and increased dementia risk.

Research found that people in their 50s and 60s who sleep for six hours or less every night ‘appear’ to be more likely to develop dementia when older.

A regular or persistent lack of sleep was found to make people 30% more likely to have dementia in later life than those who sleep ‘normally’ – for seven hours per night. According to UCL, sleeping for eight hours or more was not found to have any significant link to an increase in dementia risk, with further studies required in this area.

Published in Nature Communications, the study featured data from 7,959 adults who self-reported their sleep six times between 1985 and 2016, so that researchers could track sleep levels of participants at the ages of 50, 60 and 70. Objective data was also pulled from a selection of the cohort, who wore watch accelerometers for a week.

Dr Archana Singh-Manoux of UCL Epidemiology & Public Health and INSERM, said: “We know that sleep is important to our brain health, as it is involved in learning and memory, waste clearance from the brain, and the ability of our brain cells to remain healthy. A better understand of how sleep features might shape our risk of dementia is needed, as this might help researchers develop new ways to reduce the risk of dementia, or to delay its progression.”

According to UCL, the links between sleep patterns and dementia risk were also found to be ‘independent of potentially confounding factors’ such as mental health, heart health, behavioural differences, or sociodemographic status.