Can poor sleep lead to dementia?

December 10, 2014
Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology (AAN)
People who have sleep apnea or spend less time in deep sleep may be more likely to have changes in the brain that are associated with dementia, according to a new study. The study found that people who don’t have as much oxygen in their blood during sleep, which occurs with sleep apnea and conditions such as emphysema, are more likely to have tiny abnormalities in brain tissue, called micro infarcts, than people with higher levels of oxygen in the blood.

The study found that people who don’t have as much oxygen in their blood during sleep, which occurs with sleep apnea and conditions such as emphysema, are more likely to have tiny abnormalities in brain tissue, called micro infarcts, than people with higher levels of oxygen in the blood. These abnormalities are associated with the development of dementia.

In addition, people who spent less time in deep sleep, called slow wave sleep, were more likely to have loss of brain cells than people who spent more time in slow wave sleep. Slow wave sleep is important in processing new memories and remembering facts. People tend to spend less time in slow wave sleep as they age. Loss of brain cells is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


Previous studies have also shown a link between sleep stages and dementia. For this study, the participants were again divided into four groups based on the percentage of the night spent in slow wave sleep. Of the 37 men who spent the least time in slow wave sleep, 17 had brain cell loss, compared to seven of the 38 men who spent the most time in slow wave sleep.

The results remained the same after adjusting for factors such as smoking and body mass index and after excluding participants who had died early in the follow-up period and those who had low scores on cognitive tests at the beginning of the study.

“These findings suggest that low blood oxygen levels and reduced slow wave sleep may contribute to the processes that lead to cognitive decline and dementia,” said study author Rebecca P. Gelber, MD, DrPH, of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System and the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii. “More research is needed to determine how slow wave sleep may play a restorative role in brain function and whether preventing low blood oxygen levels may reduce the risk of dementia.”
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141210162103.htm

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