A new study suggests that taking very long daytime naps could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, it may be an early symptom rather than a cause of neurodegenerative disease.
The study involved analyzing 1,000 participants over several years.
Some previous studies suggest that naps can affect mood, alertness, and performance of mental tasks. However, a new study suggests that taking long daytime naps may be linked to an increased likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.
With this, the researchers suggest that very long daytime naps may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, rather than a cause, as mentioned earlier.
It could be a sign of accelerated aging. The main sign of regression is that if you do not take a nap and notice that you are starting to feel more sleepy during the day, this could be a sign of declining cognitive health.
Yu Ling, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
Study interprets napping as a symptom rather than a cause of Alzheimer’s disease
In 14 years, the scientists analyzed more than 1,401 people with an average age of 81. Each year, the participants wore a watch-like device, which was used to track their movement. For the purposes of the study, each period of prolonged inactivity from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. was interpreted as a nap.
In addition, each year participants also underwent tests to assess cognition. At baseline, 76% of the participants had no cognitive impairment, 20% had mild cognitive impairment, and 4% had Alzheimer’s disease.
For participants who did not develop any cognitive impairment, daily naps increased by an average of 11 minutes per year. That number doubled when the scientists looked at participants with mild cognitive impairment — 24 minutes. In contrast, it nearly tripled to a total of 68 minutes after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Therefore, participants who slept more than an hour a day were 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who slept less than an hour a day. Additionally, participants who slept at least once a day were 40% more likely to get sick than those who slept less than once a day.
According to researchers, unusual sleep patterns, insomnia, and poor quality sleep at night are common problems in people with dementia. The latest studies show that the nap link remains, even when a night’s sleep is taken into account. Therefore, according to Ling, “This indicates that the role of daytime naps is important in and of itself.”
Thus, the authors suggest that feeling increasingly sleepy during the day could be an early sign of changes in the brain and could be an indicator of dementia.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.