Dementia Risk Increased in Elderly With Less REM Sleep

HealthDay News — Seniors who spend less time each night in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may be more likely to develop dementia as they age, according to a study published in Neurology.

Matthew Pase, PhD, a senior research fellow with the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, and a visiting researcher in the department of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues focused on 321 men and women aged over 60 (average age of 67) who had participated in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) between 1995 and 1998. The research team first tracked the sleep cycle of the men and women over the course of a single night. All the patients were then tracked for signs of dementia for up to 19 years (12 years, on average).

Ultimately, 32 participants developed dementia. Twenty-four of those people developed Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators concluded that lower REM sleep percentage and longer REM sleep latency were both associated with a higher risk of dementia.

“We found that persons experiencing less REM sleep over the course of a night displayed an increased risk of developing dementia in the future,” Dr Pase told HealthDay. He noted that for every 1% drop in REM sleep, the seniors in his study saw their dementia and Alzheimer’s disease risk go up by about 9%.

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Pase MP, Himali JJ, Grima NA, et al. Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community [published online August 23, 2017]. Neurology. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004373