A new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications reveals that getting less than six hours of sleep a night during the workweek can be damaging your brain prematurely.
Over the last quarter century, researchers monitored roughly 8,000 people and found a higher dementia risk with a “sleep duration of six hours or less at age 50 and 60” compared to people who slept seven hours a night.
Persistent sleep deprivation between the ages of 50 to 70 was also linked to a 30 percent increase of dementia, regardless of “sociodemographic, behavioural, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors,” including depression.
Tara Spires-Jones, the deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland, believes that lengthy sleep is critical for normal brain function.
“Sleep is important for clearing toxic proteins that build up in dementias from the brain,” Spires-Jones said in a statement.
The director of the Centre for Dementia at the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, Tom Dening, notes that “sleep disturbance can occur a long time before the onset of other clinical evidence of dementia.”
“This study cannot establish cause and effect,” Dening added. “Maybe it is simply a very early sign of the dementia that is to come, but it’s also quite likely that poor sleep is not good for the brain and leaves it vulnerable to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.”
Alzheimer patients suffer sleep issues, including insomnia, nighttime wandering and daytime sleepiness.
Elizabeth Coulthard, an associate professor in dementia neurology at the University of Bristol in the UK, said that the latest study contributes to “new information to the emerging picture” on the link between sleep deprivation and dementia.
“This means that at least some of the people who went on to develop dementia probably did not already have it at the start of the study when their sleep was first assessed,” Coulthard said in a statement.
“It strengthens the evidence that poor sleep in middle age could cause or worsen dementia in later life.”