There are many wonderful things about retirement, but sleeping in would have to be one of the best. Unfortunately, if you’re indulging in too much sleep, this could be an indicator of Alzheimer’s, according to a new study published in the Neurology journal. Currently, the risk of people over the age of 65 of developing dementia lies at seven per cent, though this number is believed to double every five years after.
Scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine observed the sleeping patterns of a large cohort of over-60s and found that those who regularly got more than nine hours of shut-eye each night had double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (or another form of dementia) than those who slept less than nine hours. “Persons reporting long sleep time may warrant assessment and monitoring for problems with thinking and memory,” said lead researcher Dr Matthew Pase.
However, before you go panicking about that extra hour you rested this morning, researchers believe this is a symptom of the disease rather than a cause. Although, there is one surprising person-controlled factor which may be at play.
“Participants without a high school degree who sleep for more than 9 hours each night had six times the risk of developing dementia in 10 years as compared to participants who slept for less,” one of the study’s authors, Professor of Neurology Sudha Seshadri explained. “These results suggest that being highly educated may protect against dementia in the presence of long sleep duration.”
Speaking to the Telegraph, Alzheimer’s Research UK spokesperson Dr Rosa Sancho says this latest study is further evidence that changes in sleep could be an early indicator of the disease, long before other symptoms such as memory loss.
“Other studies have indicated a link between changes in sleep quality and the onset of dementia, and while this wasn't measured in this study, it could be an important factor affecting sleep duration,” Dr Sancho explained. “Understanding more about how sleep is affected by dementia could one day help doctors to identify those who are at risk of developing the condition.”