Everyone's talking about a new study about sleep and dementia. This study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, followed 7959 participants for 25 years—that's dedication, you guys—and suggested that those who got six hours of sleep (or less) in their 50s, 60s, and 70s were at a higher risk of developing the syndrome. 30 percent higher, to be exact.
What is dementia?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dementia is a syndrome that affects cognitive function "beyond what might be expected from normal aging. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement."
The researchers took into account "sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors." To give you an idea, sociodemographic factors include: "age, sex, ethnicity (white and non-white), education (lower primary school or less, lower secondary school, higher secondary school diploma, and university), and marital status (married or cohabiting, and other)." They also looked at behavioral factors like history of smoking, drinking, weight, amount of physical activity, and diet.
To be clear, they found a correlation between between sleep and the risk of dementia, but this doesn't mean that poor sleeping habits causes cognitive decline later in life.
Pamela Lutsey, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times, "The study found a modest, but I would say somewhat important association of short sleep and dementia risk. Short sleep is very common and because of that, even if it’s modestly associated with dementia risk, it can be important at a societal level. Short sleep is something that we have control over, something that you can change." It's important to note that Lutsey was not part of the study.
Other experts are wary of the findings because it relied on self-reporting, which isn't always accurate.
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