Excessive daytime naps linked to ‘vicious cycle’ in cognition

Mar 27, 2022
New study shows link between daytime naps and dementia. Source: Getty Images

A study has found daytime naps could be putting older adults with regular cognitive activity at an increased risk for developing dementia.

The results, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found that “longer and more frequent daytime naps” were connected to worsening cognition and dementia.

The study found that daytime napping creates a ‘vicious cycle’.

Whilst excessive napping could cause dementia, contrariwise, deteriorating cognition could cause more frequent napping.

Reported by The Harvard Gazette, researcher Peng Li said: “Daytime sleep behaviours of older adults are oftentimes ignored, and a consensus for daytime napping in clinical practice and health care is still lacking.”

“Our results not only suggest that excessive daytime napping may signal an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s dementia, but they also show that faster yearly increase in daytime napping may be a sign of deteriorating or unfavored clinical progression of the disease,” Li said.

Head of Policy from Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Susan Mitchell, said: “Unusual sleep patterns are common for people with dementia, but research suggests that sleep changes could be apparent long before any symptoms like memory loss start to show.

“Researchers also found frequent naps were linked with an increased risk of cognitive decline a year later,” she said.

She added that further research “looking at a number of sleep-related factors, not just napping” is necessary to fully understand “the link between dementia and sleep.”

News Medical Life Sciences reported co-senior author of the study, Yue Leng, said that overnight sleep was adjusted to ensure overall sleep quality, however, the results remained the same.

“This suggested that the role of daytime napping is important itself and is independent of nighttime sleep,” Leng said.

Fellow Co-senior author Kun Hu said the study aims to inform people of the importance of keeping track of sleep changes as they age in the hopes of preventing cognitive decline.

“Sleep changes are critical in shaping the internal changes in the brain related to the circadian clocks, cognitive decline, and the risk of dementia.”

Dr Mitchell said “there is no sure-fire way to prevent dementia.”

“But there are things within our control that can reduce our risk,” she said.

“The best evidence suggests that not smoking, only drinking in moderation, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

How often are you napping during the day?

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