Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sleep Problems Appear to Raise Alzheimer's Risk


Poor sleep patterns have been linked with several physical and mental health problems, but new data may motivate those who have difficulty getting to or staying asleep to do something about the problem. Studies reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver have found that chronic sleep difficulties are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. The largest of the studies involved more than 15,000 participants aged 70 or older in the Nurses' Health Survey. They had an initial cognitive assessment between 1995 and 2000 and were followed-up every other year for six years. Their average hours of sleep were determined in 1986 when the women were between ages 40 to 65 and again in 2000. Researchers found that too little or too much sleep was cognitively equivalent to aging by two years. After assessing the presence of beta-amyloid brain changes in a sample of the participants, they also found that "extreme sleep durations and changes in sleep duration over time may contribute to cognitive decline and early Alzheimer's changes in older adults."

The researchers pointed out that "The public health implications of these findings could be substantial, as they might lead to the eventual identification of sleep- and circadian-based strategies for reducing risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's."

Read more about recent findings in Alzheimer's research in Psychiatric News here and here. For a comprehensive look at assessment and treatment of Alzheimer's see Clinical Manual of Alzheimer and Other Dementias from American Psychiatric Publishing.

(image: ostill/Shutterstock.com)

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