WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2021 — People who get too little sleep in middle age may have an increased risk of dementia when they’re older, according to a new study.
Researchers tracked nearly 8,000 people in Britain for about 25 years, beginning when they were 50 years old, The New York Times reported.
Those who consistently slept an average of six hours or less on weeknights were about 30% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia at an average age of 77 than those who regularly got seven hours of sleep a night.
There was no general difference between men and women, according to study published in the journal Nature Communications.
“It would be really unlikely that almost three decades earlier, this sleep was a symptom of dementia, so it’s a great study in providing strong evidence that sleep is really a risk factor,” Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the study, told the Times.
But one other expert expressed some doubt.
“It’s always difficult to know what to conclude from these kinds of studies,” Robert Howard, a professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, wrote in one of several comments submitted about the study to the journal.
“Insomniacs — who probably don’t need something else to ruminate about in bed — shouldn’t worry that they are heading for dementia unless they get off to sleep immediately,” he added.
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