Alzheimer’s Speeds up Changes in Nap Duration and Frequency
written by/ April 16, 2022
As we age, enjoying an afternoon catnap can become an ever more common occurrence. But can daytime napping be saying something about a person’s cognition?
According to a study recently published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the link between the two does exist, and it goes both ways.
Put simply, the results indicate that aging has an increasing effect both on the frequency and the duration of daytime naps, especially among people with Alzheimer’s.
On the other hand, increased frequency and duration of naps can point to a higher risk of developing this disorder.
Researchers think this link could be explained by interferences with arousal caused by neuronal loss and neurotransmitter deficits in WPNs (wake-promoting neurons).
The authors focused on analyzing data from 1,401 people that took part in an observational study at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The average age of the participants was 81.
All of them were required to spend up to two weeks with a wearable device named Actical on their wrist, which is how the data was retrieved. The devices helped identify the participants’ napping episodes, the duration and frequency of which were later calculated.
The data analysis and year-to-year comparisons led to several curious observations:
- Naps got longer and more frequent with aging.
- The onset and development of Alzheimer’s dementia had an accelerating impact on the year-to-year changes and increases in nap duration and frequency.
- Excessive napping also pointed to an elevated risk of a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s (since it correlated with deteriorated cognition the following year).
Furthermore, the co-authors state that a strong upside of this study is that it didn’t merely focus on one’s nighttime sleep. Instead, they chose a more comprehensive approach, devoting their attention to the 24-hour cycle sleep patterns and daytime sleep in the elderly.
Still, there are certain contradictions that need to be addressed. Much of previously conducted research stresses the beneficial effects of napping on one’s cognitive performance. This study, like several others, could be said to defy these findings.
Such conflicting results tell us that the link between sleep and aging, as well as the disorders associated with old age, still pose many unanswered questions.