The time you wake up in the morning could increase your risk of dementia

During the winter many of us are guilty of spending a little more time in bed where possible. The cold weather and dark mornings are not conducive for getting up early.

While there’s nothing wrong with catching up on some much needed rest, new research has revealed it could actually raise your risk for dementia. A study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people with irregular sleep patterns are 53 percent more likely to develop the condition.

Within this study, sleep regularity referred to how consistent you are at going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. This is just as important as how much sleep you get at night, experts said.

Study author Professor Matthew Paul Pase, from the Monash University in Australia, explained: “Sleep health recommendations often focus on getting the recommended amount of sleep, which is seven to nine hours a night, but there is less emphasis on maintaining regular sleep schedules.

“Our findings suggest the regularity of a person’s sleep is an important factor when considering a person’s risk of dementia.”

As part of the study the team, from the American Academy of Neurology, studied 88,094 people from the UK, with an average age of 62.

Each participant was followed for an average of seven years.

Their sleep regularity was monitored for a week to establish their sleep schedule.

Researchers analysed these results and ranked their sleep regularity on a scale.

Higher scores were given to people who stuck to the same sleep pattern every night.

For example, a participant who slept and woke up at the exact same time each day would be given a sleep regularity index of 100.

Whereas a person who sleeps and wakes at different times every day would have a score of zero.

Over the seven year period, 480 participants developed the disease.

It was found that those who had an irregular sleeping pattern had a greater risk for dementia.

More specifically, those with the most irregular sleep were 53 percent more likely to develop dementia than people in the middle group.

Prof Pase added: “Effective sleep health education combined with behavioural therapies can improve irregular sleep patterns.

“Based on our findings, people with irregular sleep may only need to improve their sleep regularity to average levels, compared to very high levels, to prevent dementia.”

However, he added: “Future research is needed to confirm our findings.”

Existing research has already connected poor sleep to a myriad of other health issues including diabetes, heart disease, strokes and depression.

The NHS recommends that adults sleep between seven and nine hours a night.

Common symptoms of dementia to look for include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
  • Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • Being confused about time and place
  • Mood changes.

If you or someone you know is experiencing unexplained symptoms of dementia you should speak to a doctor.

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