Scientists have recently pushed forward the idea that elderly people in need of more sleep per night than usual could face a greater risk of developing dementia down the road. According to the researchers’ estimates, seniors who sleep more than nine hours a night face 2.5 times greater risk of dementia than those who don’t need the extra hours of rest. Moreover, the risk rose sixfold for those who didn’t benefit from a high school degree.
This led the scientists to believe that a certain degree of education actually keeps individuals safe from neurological damage that could lead to dementia at some point during their lifetimes. According to the study’s authors, people that already suffer from the disease, also battle with sleep disruption. However, at this point, scientists are unsure whether the changes in the sleep pattern precede the disease or are actually a cause of dementia, said Matthew Pase, co-author of the study and a neurology fellow at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Most importantly, sleeping longer does not necessarily means one will come down with dementia for sure down the road. So far, the researchers deemed their study only observational, rather than claiming to have found cause and effect. Even so, keeping a close eye on the sleep regime could be a good call, said Pase.
“If someone reported recently becoming a longer sleeper, they could undergo a memory assessment”, Matthew Pase suggested.
The study also has its limitations, as the research focused solely on comparing dementia patients to healthy individuals, instead of tracking the progression of the disease over time, the scientists noted. For their paper, the researchers reviewed studies that looked at elderly people who took part in the Framingham Heart Study and their descendants residing in a Massachusetts community since 1948. Almost 2,000 participants took part in the study, with an average age of 72. Over the course of the next decade, 10 percent of the subjects were diagnosed with dementia, most of them suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers at the time did not find any particular link between people who slept more per night and increased risk of dementia for more than an average of 13 years.
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