Study Finds Those Getting Less Than 6 Hours Sleep Are At Higher Risk Of Dementia

It’s hard to believe that there was a time in our life – a time long, long past – where we used to throw a tantrum at the very idea of going to bed. Bedtimes were something to rebel against and all-nighters were worn like a badge of honour. Now, we’d take leave just to get a week of solid rest; of no emails, no work calls or zoom meetings, just us and our high thread-count bedsheets. In 2021, we’re calling it: going to bed before the sun has set is seriously underrated. 

While it certainly seems most of us are functioning with less than ideal hours of sleep under our belt, a new study is here to ensure you make sleep a priority. We’ve long known that lack of sleep can influence everything from our energy levels to diet, with most of us reaching for sugary junk after a bad night’s rest. But a new study published in the journal of Nature Communications suggests that consistent lack of sleep may put you at higher risk of developing dementia. 

For the study, researchers tracked 8,000 people in Britain for about 25 years, beginning when they were 50-years-old. The study then found that those that regularly reported six hours or less sleep a night were 30 per cent more likely to develop dementia later in life than those that got seven hours or more. This was regardless of other health risks they may have had, like heart disease, poor diet, poor mental health, or smoking. 

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According to the researchers, the understanding is that poor sleep isn’t a symptom of early dementia, particularly given the initial assessment of the participants that was conducted three decades prior. Having said that though, sleep duration could contribute to the development of dementia. Some posit that this could be due to the proteins that build up in the brain and are then flushed out during sleep, with this process unable to occur due to interrupted rest. Consequently, these pre-dementia protein build-ups continue, beginning about 15 to 20 years before the person exhibits memory and cognition problems. 

As Dr Severine Sabia, an author of the study at the University of Paris, told The Guardian, “These findings suggest that sleep duration might be a risk factor for dementia in later life. I cannot tell you that sleep duration is a cause of dementia, but it may contribute to its development.”

Dementia affects around one in 14 people over 65 and one in six people over the age of 80. News of the impact of lack of sleep on individuals follows another study that found women who experienced disrupted sleep were at twice the risk of dying from heart disease.

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