Medical Moment: Lack of sleep increases dementia risk, study says

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 3:39 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - We all know about the importance of sleep.

Experts say we should strive to get eight good hours of shut-eye each night.

In the short-term, lack of sleep may cause emotional distress, slower response times, and increased stress levels. And now, long-term effects may include some irreversible health problems.

According to the CDC, the U.S. is becoming a sleep-deprived nation.

“In 2008, some 25 percent of Americans slept less than seven hours which is required. By 2018, those numbers have become a third of Americans who are sleeping less than they should,” said Jagdish Khubchadani, PhD, a Professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University.

The negative effects from that shortage of sleep are long.

“Anxiety, your reflexes become poor, your judgement becomes poor, anger management becomes an issue and in the long run, you continue to gain weight. You have a risk of heart disease, cancers, and stroke,” Dr. Khubchadani continued.

Now, recent studies show that lack of sleep can increase your risk for dementia too.

Researchers at Harvard found people who slept fewer than five hours per night were twice as likely to develop dementia and twice as likely to die, compared to those who slept six to eight hours per night.

Studies performed by PubMed, EMBase, ISI Web of Science, and PsycINFO show that sleep deprivation increase dementia risk by 20 percent. A study done using 7,959 participants looked at the relationship between the amount of sleep and increased risk of dementia in midlife citizens. Researchers found that after 25 years there were 521 cases on dementia because of a lack of sleep. The heightened risk is associated with the duration of sleep lasting less than six hours at ages 50 and 60 compared to those at the same ages but achieving seven hours of sleep. This study showed that those at ages 50, 60, and 70 with short sleep durations had a 30 percent increased risk of developing dementia.

So how can you get some quality sleep?

“Maintaining a schedule, keeping technology away in the bedroom, not drinking coffee and alcohol before you sleep. Those are three basic things that you can do to, you know, ensure that you’re getting a good quality sleep and are at lower risk for health problems,” Dr. Khubchadani said.

Dementia is an umbrella term that is used to describe many different mental illnesses and because it’s an umbrella term there are always studies being done to help either improve or prevent cognitive decline.

If someone is already suffering from dementia, some activities you could do at home to make them feel better include helping that person stay calm and oriented by, sticking to a schedule and, encouraging activities that are both enjoyable and stimulating. Another option is to get a nurse to help take care of them. Many dementia patients want to live at home where it feels familiar having someone there who knows how to take care of them is the best of both worlds. To help prevent dementia you can take control of your health.

Eat right, exercise and get the correct amount of sleep. When getting the correct amount of sleep try to not use artificial sleep inducers. Get your body on the right track and let it relax and regroup before the next day.

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