Is There a Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Dementia in Seniors?

April 28th, 2015 by John Wilson

Some senior health issues are caused by a lack of sleep.

A lack of sleep can result in several senior health issues.

As we get older, sleep problems, such as insomnia and difficulty falling asleep, become more common. These issues can be caused by a number of senior health issues, but sometimes they are just a normal part of aging. However, studies have shown a potential link between a lack of sleep and the development of dementia in the elderly. For this reason, getting enough sleep should be a priority when living your senior years.

Breathing Difficulties While Sleeping

One of the most common causes of sleeping problems in seniors is sleep apnea. During episodes, the blood can be deprived of the proper amount of oxygen for periods of time. In a study published by the American Academy of Neurology, it was discovered seniors who had reduced oxygen levels during sleep developed minor brain abnormalities, which can contribute to dementia symptoms in the elderly. Emphysema is another common cause of these oxygen deficiencies and brain abnormalities. Senior care services should take care to check aging residents for these conditions to obtain proper treatment and prevent issues.

A Lack of Deep Sleep

Even individuals who don’t have other senior health issues could experience difficulties with sleep that may increase their risk of developing dementia. For instance, studies have shown individuals who don’t enter the appropriate periods of deep sleep each night are at further risk for developing dementia than those who sleep well. Those who get less deep sleep are much more likely to experience brain cell loss that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

A Change in the Biological Clock

Seniors typically need an hour less sleep than their younger counterparts. Their biological clock has also likely changed, which is what leads the elderly to go to bed earlier and wake earlier. This often causes them to turn to caffeine and other stimulants to help them stay awake later like they used to. Unfortunately, their biological clocks still cause them to wake up earlier, which means less sleep. For this reason, it’s important to make sure your elderly relatives are getting enough sleep, despite any challenges that stand in their way.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep as they get older. While this may seem like a minor inconvenience to most people, it could be increasing the risk of developing dementia and other memory problems later in life. Studies have been conducted to explore the correlation between a lack of sleep and dementia, showing a clear connection between sleep and this common senior health issue. Senior care services should therefore focus on helping seniors sleep better so they can reduce their risks.

If you’re living the senior life and are interested in assisted living, contact us. We offer the care you need to ensure a better quality of life.

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