Daytime sleepiness is very common in the elderly with prevalence rates of up to 50 percent | ScienceDaily
Caused by sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a disruption of normal breathing during sleep, these cause recurrent awakenings and subsequent excessive daytime sleepiness.
In an editorial in the current issue of Neurology, a Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researcher stresses that it is now time for physicians to consider the association between these sleep conditions and cognitive impairment in the elderly.
In the same issue of the journal, researchers of the “HypnoLaus Study” investigated an older population (over the age of 65), with and without cognitive impairment. They performed sleep studies on these groups and found that the group with cognitive impairments had more sleep disturbances attributed to SDB.
Rosemary H Gibson et al. Dementia: January 14, 2016
Dementia-related sleep problems can be complex and challenging. Environmental interventions which resynchronise the sleep/wake cycle have been trialled with promising results for people with dementia in institutionalised settings. However, there is less research concerning community-dwelling people with dementia and their family carers.
This study involved a five-week feasibility study including timed light therapy, exercise and sleep education. Sleep and physical and mental functioning were measured at the beginning and end of the trial using objective measures, standardised questionnaires and structured participant feedback. Of 15 community-dwelling pairs who participated, nine completed the trial.
The case studies presented here reveal that it is feasible for this population to use non-pharmacological interventions, with positive outcomes. However, there are also issues that can mask benefits or prevent compliance. The options for treating dementia are limited. Environmental interventions may help manage dementia-related sleep problems and further trials would be worthwhile to improve compliance and evaluate effectiveness.
Recent US research found an apparent link between poor sleep quality and higher levels abnormal protein (beta-amyloid plaques) in the brain. The following NHS Choices Behind the Headlines critical appraisal puts the limitations of this interesting research into perspective.
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Reference: Mander, BA. Marks, SM. [and] Vogel, JW. [et al] (2015). β-amyloid disrupts human NREM slow waves and related hippocampus-dependent memory consolidation. Nature Neuroscience. July 2015, Vol.18(7), pp.1051-7. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).