A recent study published in Neurology has shown that older people who sleep more than nine hours a night could be twice as likely to develop dementia over the following ten years. Of course, the odd night where you get nine hours’ sleep is absolutely fine, it’s when a person is consistently getting these nine or more hours that it should be seen as a red flag.

Indeed, if you notice a change in sleep pattern that is similar to this then use it as a warning sign to get yourself checked out. Sleeping pattern changes are a sign of brain damage as it is your brain that controls your wakefulness and could be an early indicator for Alzheimer’s.

Is Sleeping Too Long a Sign of Dementia?It was also found that people who slept in bed more than nine hours a night had smaller brains, that both showed signs of memory loss and difficulty being able to process information. In fact, those in the study without a high school diploma, who slept longer, were actually six times more likely to develop dementia. It’s unknown whether having a higher education could help offset the longer sleep symptom though. Other studies have actually shown getting too little sleep or interrupted sleep can also be a sign of dementia too.

Of course, you shouldn’t be worried that getting extra sleep will cause you to get Alzheimer’s, rather, these nine hours of sleep or inability to get out if bed is seen as a symptom of the disease rather than a cause. This means that you cannot simply get older people to set their alarm earlier and be able to ward off dementia.

However, the study has provided a much-needed insight into both Alzheimer’s and dementia as it followed more than 2,400 people over a decade. In the study, 234 people developed dementia.

On the study, Matthew Pase, PhD, from the neurology department of the University School of Medicine, said: “Self-reported sleep duration may be a useful clinical tool to help predict persons at risk of progressing to clinical dementia within 10 years. Persons reporting long sleep time may warrant assessment and monitoring for problems with thinking and memory.”

At the moment it’s unclear whether too much or too little sleep is more of a possible symptom of dementia or not. What is clear though, is that sleep must be linked to the condition and will be a clear focus for research into dementia in the future.

Changing in sleeping patterns aren’t the only symptoms of dementia though, studies have also found other key indicators. One of these factors is losing your sense of smell, with many doctors performing what’s known as a peanut butter test on patients who feel they are losing their sense of smell. In the test patients are asked if they can smell the distinctive smelling spread from a distance.

More recent studies have linked people who often give long-winded, rambling speeches could also be an early indicator.

Although nothing is clear either way on what causes or is a symptom of dementia, if you feel you or an elderly relative is suffering symptoms like these then you should contact your/their GP. 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net