How does restless sleep affect the risk of dementia?
If people spend restless nights and suffer from sleep problems more often, this can be an early indication of the development of dementia. Researchers have now found that older people with no apparent cognitive impairment are more likely to have so-called amyloid protein deposits in their brains if they have sleep problems and an irregular sleep-wake cycle.
The researchers at Washington University found that sleep problems and increased sleepiness during the day could indicate the risk of dementia. The experts published the results of their study in the journal "JAMA Neurology".
Sleep problems should be taken seriously
Do you have trouble sleeping through the night, do you wake up frequently and are you more sleepy during the day? These could actually be signs of an increased risk of developing dementia. So don't take any sleep difficulties lightly, but talk to them calmly at your next doctor's appointment.
Early symptoms of dementia
Dementia is a collective term for a collection of different symptoms that result from brain damage caused by various diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's). Some early symptoms associated with degenerative disease may appear some time before a diagnosis is made. These include, for example, memory loss and difficulty concentrating. The current study now found that restless sleep and the habit of sleeping during the day can be early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.
Regular sleep protects against amyloid plaques?
Amyloid protein deposits (so-called amyloid plaques) are a hallmark of Alzheimer's and can develop years before symptoms of dementia appear. If the study participants had more regular sleep patterns, they were less likely to develop significant amounts of amyloid protein in their brains, the researchers explain.
Sleep problems do not automatically mean Alzheimer's
Although the scientists discovered more amyloid in people with a disturbed sleep pattern, the findings cannot clearly say whether restless sleep actually contributes to the development of Alzheimer's or is only a sign of the disease. People should not now automatically assume that they have Alzheimer's just because they wake up at night, explains study author Dr. Erik S. Musiek from Washington University. There are various other reasons for a disturbed sleep-wake cycle.
Address sleep problems at the doctor's appointment
Some changes in sleep behavior are typical of aging people. Although sleep disorders usually manifest as nighttime awakening and short periods of compensatory sleep, sufferers do not always notice these events and may not report them to their doctor. Nevertheless, these problems can be identified in a large group of people, says Dr. Musiek. (as)