Lack Of Sleep May Increase Dementia Risk

KDKA's Dr. Maria Simbra has more on what a new study found.

Video Transcript

[WHOOSH]

- Are you in your 50s or 60s, and do you get six hours of sleep or less a night?

- If so, beware. Dr. Maria Simbra explains why you could be at increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

MARIA SIMBRA: Jean Royse's 89-year-old mother has dementia. She has trouble thinking and remembering. But as a younger woman, sleep was not a priority.

JEAN ROYSE: She was a very busy woman. She raised six kids. She was never in bed when we were. So you're up early to get everybody taking care of.

MARIA SIMBRA: Turns out how much sleep people get when they're younger could influence how well the brain works when they're older.

SARA MURPHY: It's one of those areas where we talk about understanding what are some modifiable, right, risk factors and so we think about diet and nutrition, overall physical health. You know, sleep is a big part of our overall lifestyle.

MARIA SIMBRA: British researchers followed 8,000 people for 25 years from the time they were 50.

- Because it was so long and a relatively big study is-- it gives pretty good evidence that you need to focus on sleep.

MARIA SIMBRA: Compared to those who slept seven hours a night, those who got six hours of sleep on average were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia in their 70s.

- One thing that sleep does is it strengthens memories. It also prunes memories you don't need to know. When you don't get enough sleep, you deposit proteins that are linked to Alzheimer's, and we think that these proteins are not getting cleared.

MARIA SIMBRA: Whether shortened sleep is an early symptom of dementia or whether it leads to the problem still needs to be worked out.

- Lack of sleep may be a risk factor. There's many risk factors for dementia. This could just be one little piece of the puzzle.

MARIA SIMBRA: Jean does her best to get enough rest but admits it's hard.

JEAN ROYSE: I wish I slept more. My sleep is never a solid night's sleep. I might get maybe six hours of sleep total a night.

MARIA SIMBRA: While no one can say that a lack of sleep contributed to her mother's dementia, Jean's busy days remind her of her mom. I'm Dr. Maria Simbra, KDKA News.