Researchers have analyzed what sleep disorders can lead to. The latest study shows that it is the quality, not the quantity, of sleep that affects cognitive functioning in later life and may lead to dementia. How much does the risk increase in those who do not sleep well?
Sleep is crucial to your overall health and well-being. It has a positive effect on brain functioning, improving concentration, memory and thought processes. Regular and deep sleep also supports the immune system, helping to fight infections. It also has a significant impact on the regulation of emotions and mood, and sleep deprivation can, in turn, lead to increased stress. However, it turns out that this is not all, because sleep disorders in people aged between 30 and 40 may have serious consequences in the future. If you also struggle with sleep problems, be sure to check how to avoid falling into the vicious cycle of insomnia.
Sleep disorders and the risk of dementia in the future
The online version of the journal “Neurology” published research results showing that people aged 30-40 who struggle with sleep disorders are much more likely to develop dementia in the future. “Given that the changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease begin to develop in the brain several decades before symptoms appear, understanding the link between sleep earlier in life and later cognitive problems is critical to understanding its role as a risk factor for the disease.” noted the lead author of the study, Dr. Yue Leng from the University of California, San Francisco (USA).
The researcher also added that the quality, not the quantity, of sleep has the greatest impact on cognitive health. However, the researchers note that further research is needed to assess the relationship between sleep disorders and cognitive function, and to determine whether there are stages of life when sleep quality is most important in relation to later dementia risk.
The impact of sleep problems on cognitive functions – a study
The study was conducted on 526 people whose average age was 40 years. These people were followed by scientists for 11 years. They took into account the quality and quantity of sleep of the study participants. People undergoing this observation wore activity monitors on their wrists. Participants wore them for 3 days, twice, one year apart. They were also subjected to tests of memory and logical thinking.
Observations showed that the average sleep time of the subjects was approximately 6 hours. As many as 46 percent of people reported sleep problems. The researchers also took a closer look at sleep fragmentation (interruptions in sleep spent in a still position, but also the time when a person moved). They found that, on average, about 19 percent of study participants struggled with sleep fragmentation. The sleep fragmentation index – a measure of restlessness during sleep – was based on the percentage of time participants were moving and the percentage of time they were still. Higher fragmentation scores indicated more disturbed sleep. On this basis, the study participants were divided into three groups (those with major sleep problems, moderate sleep problems, and those who mostly slept well).
Which group of people is at the highest risk of developing dementia in the future?
The study’s conclusions concerned how sleep disorders may affect the risk of developing dementia in the future in the study participants. They found that 175 people who had the most disturbed sleep had poor cognitive performance later in life. It occurred much less frequently in people with the least disturbed sleep (only 10 out of 176 people).
The researchers took into account age, gender, race, and education and came to the conclusion that study participants who had the greatest sleep problems were at a much greater risk of cognitive decline in later years – it was twice as high compared to those who who didn’t sleep well. Interestingly, the researchers did not observe a significant difference on this issue between people who had no sleep problems and the middle group. Having knowledge about the negative effects of sleep problems, it is also worth checking how to avoid insomnia.