Could frequent, long, daytime naps be a red flag for Alzheimer's disease?
“Daytime sleep behaviors of older adults are oftentimes ignored, and a consensus for daytime napping in clinical practice and health care is still lacking,” Li said in a press release.
“Our results not only suggest that excessive daytime napping may signal an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” Li added, “but they also show that faster yearly increase in daytime napping may be a sign of deteriorating or unfavored clinical progression of the disease.”
“Our results not only suggest that excessive
daytime napping may signal an elevated risk
of Alzheimer’s dementia, but they also
show that faster yearly increase in
daytime napping may be a sign of
deteriorating or unfavored clinical
progression of the disease.”
People Who Napped More Had Higher Alzheimer’s Risk
“The vicious cycle we observed between daytime sleep and Alzheimer’s disease offers a basis for better understanding the role of sleep in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults,” said Li.
Naps became longer and more frequent in people
with Alzheimer’s as disease progressed — especially
after the disease’s symptoms had appeared.
The study had some limitations, including that because participants were all older, findings may not necessarily translate to younger people.
The findings don’t indicate that naps are necessarily detrimental to brain health, and again, copious past research has found that healthy sleep is good for the brain. However, in future studies, the team wants to explore whether the correlation would hold true if napping during the day was decreased. In other words, they want to look at whether napping less during the day could have a positive affect on brain health, or even lower the risk of cognitive decline.
Co-senior author Kun Hu, of the Medical Biodynamics Program in the Brigham’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, said that regardless, the team hopes these findings will bring new attention and energy to Alzheimer’s research around sleep patterns.
“Our hope is to draw more attention to daytime sleep patterns and the importance of patients noting if their sleep schedule is changing over time,” Hu said. “Sleep changes are critical in shaping the internal changes in the brain related to the circadian clocks, cognitive decline, and the risk of dementia.”