Staying up late and getting LESS than eight hours of sleep reduces dementia risk, scientists say: Going to bed earlier and sleeping longer can be bad for brain health
- Older people who go to bed early and sleep longer are more likely to develop dementia, new study finds
- Those who go to bed before 9 p.m. every night and sleep more than eight hours a night have a 70% increased risk
- Researchers believe these sleep habits are an early warning sign that a person will eventually develop the cognitive disorder
- Previously, researchers have noted that disturbances and strange sleeping habits are a sign of poor brain health in some Americans
Going to bed early for a long night’s sleep may increase an older person’s risk of developing dementia, a new study finds.
A Chinese research team from Shandong University, in the northeastern region of the country, found that people over 60 who went to bed before 9 p.m. every night and slept for more than eight hours on average had an increased risk of developing dementia than their peers who slept less and stayed up later.
While good sleep is usually linked to good brain health, this study shows that there is a risk of someone sleeping too much. Experts also often warn that older people who sleep more than usual may show an early sign that they will develop dementia.
Researchers believe that elderly people who suddenly go to sleep for extended periods should be monitored and screened for dementia in an effort to start treatment earlier.
Researchers found that older people who sleep earlier and for more than eight hours in a row are 70% more likely to develop dementia than their peers (file photo)
The research team, which published their findings Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, collected sleep data from nearly 2,000 participants, ages 60 to 74.
Each answered questions about their normal sleep and was assessed to measure their cognitive function.
They were followed for an average of about four years to assess their sleep patterns and current brain health.
Over the four-year period, researchers found that those who often slept longer were 70 percent more likely to develop the devastating cognitive disorder.
While this study may come as a surprise — given that a good night’s sleep is often associated with good brain health — experts have long warned that abnormal sleep patterns are often indicators that a person will experience cognitive decline.
Excessive sleep, insomnia and sleep disorders are considered by experts to be important early indicators that a person will eventually suffer from cognitive disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Sometimes it is the first symptom to show up, sometimes years before a person realizes that something else is going on.
A study published earlier this month by researchers at Stanford University found that a person’s sleep age — which is more related to sleep disturbances than height — can accurately predict mortality risk and cognitive health.
Experts recommend that people avoid exercise, heavy meals, alcohol or caffeine immediately before bed, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, and avoid afternoon naps to avoid sleep fragmentation, which puts them at increased risk of developing cognitive problems over the course of time of time
“Going to bed and waking up at regular times is essential for better sleep,” he explains.
‘This means that you don’t slack off, but make sure you are fully rested. It’s a different amount for everyone and often the window varies slightly, such as being a night owl versus an early bird.
‘Getting firm exposure to light during the day, preferably with light from outside, keeping the sleeping environment dark at night, exercising regularly but not too close to bedtime, avoiding alcohol and caffeine at bedtime and avoiding heavy nighttime meals, carrying all contribute to healthy sleep,” Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, a professor of sleep medicine at Stanford who contributed to the study, told Neuroscience News.
Other experts have also advised people not to nap too late in the afternoon so as not to disturb their sleep and make sure they go to bed at an abnormal time.
Heavy meals within two hours of bedtime are also not recommended.
Mignot also says that a person who thinks they may be suffering from a sleep problem should see a doctor, because sometimes medical intervention — not just behavioral changes — is needed to improve their sleep.