Armed forces veterans who experienced sleep problems were linked with a 30 per cent increased chance of developing dementia in research presented today at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014.
Researchers at the University of California studied the medical records of 200,000 veterans age 55 and older, 96.5 per cent of whom were male. During eight years of follow-up, 10.6 per cent of veterans with sleep disturbance had developed dementia compared with 9 per cent in those without sleep disturbance. Having adjusted for increased risk factors for dementia, including diabetes and high blood pressure, the research suggests that veterans who had a diagnosis of non-specific sleep disturbance, apnea or insomnia had a 30 per cent increased chance of having developed dementia compared with veterans with no diagnosed sleep problems.
Additionally, the study suggests that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep disturbance had an 80 per cent increased chance of having developed dementia, with sleep disturbances adding to the higher risk of dementia that veterans with PTSD experience.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘This study is one of the largest ever to draw the links between sleep disturbances and the development of dementia. Previous studies have also made this link, and now we need more research to determine whether this is a cause or effect of dementia. Better understanding of this link might enable us to develop methods to help people improve their sleep, or may be a way to identify people in the earlier stages of dementia. It is vital that veterans are supported post-service to overcome mental health issues and ensure overall well-being.