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Sleeping less than six hours can impair cognition

Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine in the United States (U.S.) said middle-aged adults who report symptoms of insomnia and are sleeping less than six hours a night may be at increased risk of cognitive impairment. The study results were published in the journal ‘Sleep’.

 

The results may help healthcare professionals understand which patients who report insomnia are at increased risk for developing dementia, the ‘Medical Xpress’ reported. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.

 

When these symptoms occur at least, three nights a week and for at least three months, it is considered a chronic disorder. Researchers found that adults who reported insomnia and obtained less than six hours of measured sleep in the laboratory were two times more likely to have cognitive impairment than people with the same insomnia complaints who got six or more hours of sleep in the lab.

 

According to an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Health and Sleep Specialist at Penn State Health Sleep Research and Treatment Center, Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, about 25 per cent of the adult general population reports insomnia symptoms and another 10 per cent suffers from chronic insomnia.

 

He said that being able to distinguish which of these individuals were at risk for further adverse health conditions was critical. In previous research, the team found that adults with insomnia who obtained less than six hours of sleep were at risk for various cardiometabolic conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or stroke and mental health problems, such as depression. Fernandez-Mendoza said: “These new results demonstrate that these middle- aged adults also have an increased risk of cognitive impairment, which can be an early indicator of future dementia in a significant proportion of them.”

 

Researchers examined data from the Penn State Adult Cohort, a randomly-selected, population-based sample of 1,741 adults who had one measured night of sleep.

 

Fernandez-Mendoza and colleagues found that adults who reported insomnia symptoms or chronic insomnia and slept less than six hours in the lab were two times more likely to have cognitive impairment when compared to good sleepers. Similarly, adults who reported insomnia but who slept six or more hours in the lab were not at risk of cognitive impairment when compared to good sleepers.

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