Less REM sleep tied to greater risk of dementia

People who get less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may have a greater risk of developing dementia, according to a new study. REM sleep is the sleep stage when dreaming occurs. | Neurology | ScienceDaily

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People who get less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may have a greater risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published in the August online issue of Neurology.

There are five stages of sleep. Stage one is light sleep. Stage two is when the body begins to prepare for deeper sleep, including stages three and four. Stage five is REM sleep. During this dream stage, the eyes move rapidly and there is increased brain activity as well as higher body temperature, quicker pulse and faster breathing. The first REM stage occurs about an hour to an hour-and-a-half into sleep and then recurs multiple times throughout the night as the cycles repeat.

The study looked at 321 people with an average age of 67 who participated in The Framingham Heart Study. During that study, sleep cycles were measured for each participant. Researchers collected the sleep data and then followed participants for an average of 12 years. During that time, 32 people were diagnosed with some form of dementia and of those, 24 were determined to have Alzheimer’s disease.

The people who developed dementia spent an average of 17 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep, compared to 20 percent for those who did not develop dementia. After adjusting for age and sex, researchers found links between both a lower percentage of REM sleep and a longer time to get to the REM sleep stage and a greater risk of dementia. For every percent reduction in REM sleep there was a 9 percent increase in the risk of dementia. The results were similar after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk or sleep, such as heart disease factors, depression symptoms and medication use.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Pase, M.P. et al. Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community. Neurology, 2017

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