Taking frequent or regular naps for prolonged periods during the day could be a sign of early onset dementia in older people, according to a new study.
Seniors who nap at least once a day or who nap more than an hour a day were 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who didn’t nap daily or who nap less one hour per day. , according to a study published Thursday on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“We found that the link between excessive daytime naps and dementia persisted after adjusting for nighttime sleep quantity and quality,” said co-author Yue Leng, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California to San Francisco, in a statement.
The results echo the findings of a previous study by Leng which found that taking naps for two hours a day increased the risk of cognitive deterioration compared to naps of less than 30 minutes a day.
The new study used data collected over 14 years by the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which followed more than 1,400 people between the ages of 74 and 88 (the median age being 81).
“I don’t think society knows that Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that often causes mood and sleep changes,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the disease prevention clinic. Alzheimer’s at the Center for Brain Health at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt School of Medicine.
“Excessive naps could be one of many clues that the person might be on the path to cognitive decline and trigger a personal assessment with a medical specialist,” said Isaacson, who was not involved in the study. .
Increased need for naps
The quantity and quality of sleep do not deteriorate with age, which is often due to pain or complications associated with chronic illnesses such as more frequent trips to the bathroom. However, older people tend to take naps more often than they did when they were younger.
But daytime naps could be an indicator of brain changes that “are not related to nighttime sleep,” Leng said. She referenced previous studies suggesting that the development of neurofibrillary tangles – a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease – may affect wake-promoting neurons in key areas of the brain, thereby disrupting sleep.
For 14 days a year, study participants wore a device that recorded their movement data. No movement for an extended period between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. was interpreted as a nap.
While it’s possible for people to read or watch TV, “we’ve developed a unique algorithm to define naps and differentiate naps from inactivity. We didn’t set a specific period for the ‘long nap’, but we were focusing more on accumulated nap minutes per day and how nap lengths change over the years,” Leng told CNN. by email.
“More studies are needed with validated devices to detect sleep versus sedentary behavior,” Isaacson said. “But at the same time, being sedentary and not moving for long periods of time is a known risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Whatever the reason, falling asleep during the day or taking excessive naps makes me alert and I try to determine if the person might be at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline,” did he declare.
Over the 14 years, the study found that daytime naps increased by an average of 11 minutes per year for adults who did not develop cognitive impairment. However, a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment doubled the nap time to a total of 24 minutes per day. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly tripled the length of their naps, to an average of 68 minutes a day.
The “dramatic increase” in the length and frequency of naps over the years seems to be a particularly strong sign, Leng said.
“I think we don’t have enough evidence to draw conclusions about the causal relationship, which is the nap itself that causes cognitive aging, but excessive daytime napping could be a sign of accelerated aging or the process of cognitive aging,” she said.
What to do?
Adults should ideally limit daytime naps to 15 or 20 minutes before 3 p.m. to experience the more invigorating benefits of the nap and not disrupt nighttime sleep, Leng said.
Additionally, older adults and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease should pay more attention to napping behavior during the day and be on the lookout for signs of increased or excessive napping, she said. declared.
Any significant increase in naps should be reported to a doctor, Isaacson said.
“I think it’s never too late for someone to make a healthy change in their brain lifestyle or pay more attention to their brain health,” Isaacson said. “Making sleep a priority, paying attention to sleep quality and talking to our doctor about sleep are three key things.”