Dementia and sleep: What do we know about this link?

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Dementia affects at least 55 million people worldwide and the number is increasing by about 10 million every year. In part, this is because we are living longer, but dementia is not an inevitable part of aging. So, are there ways to decrease our risk of developing dementia? Much research is currently focusing on the potential role of sleep.What is the link between dementia and certain sleep patterns? Image credit: Oleksii Syrotkin/Stocksy.

According to the World Health OrganizationTrusted Source (WHO), “dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.”

The WHO states that around 55 million people have dementia, and by 2050 the number is likely to be almost 140 million. Between 60% and 70% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.Dementia is primarily a disease of old age, although young-onset dementiaTrusted Source — where symptoms begin before the age of 65 — accounts for about 9%Trusted Source of cases. However, dementia is not an inevitable consequence of aging.

There is a genetic component to dementia — if you have a close relative with dementia, this might increase your risk. However, several studies have shown that even those with a hereditary risk can reduce it by adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and too much alcohol.One part of a healthy lifestyle is getting enough of the right sort of sleep. And many researchers are now seeing connections between sleep and dementia, as Dr. David Merrill, geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told Medical News Today.

“Sleep,” he noted, “is a factor that can either be protective or risky for cognitive health. The effects of sleep on cognitive health depend on the attributes of an individual’s sleep, including the quality, quantity, frequency, and even the regularity of sleep.“How long should we sleep for?

“It’s recommended — not only for brain health, but for overall health — that people get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night.”– Dr. Percy Griffin, Alzheimer’s Association director of scientific engagement

So, the optimum quantity for most people is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours, but is lack of sleep a risk factor?

Dr. Anton Porsteinsson, professor and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program (AD-CARE) at the University of Rochester Medical Center told MNT this might be the case.

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