Sleep, old man, sleep for your health!
(Mirror daily, United States) – Poor sleeping patterns have been associated with both old people and increased health risks for quite a while now. In this case, however, a team of Canadian scientists found stroke and dementia tied to poor sleep in senior citizens.
The research was one of the first of its kind, delving deep into the pathologies of stroke and dementia, despite the fact that it was already known that a connection was present.
To start, sleep fragmentation is what the doctors call the waking episodes during the night. This causes multiple tiny brain changes, which can only be observed during an autopsy.
A sample of 315 dead senior citizens is what the scientists used in their research, all willing participants with an average age of 90, 70% of which were female. Additionally, all the participants had their sleep patterns monitored for at least a week some time before they died.
In a very unexpected turn, the researchers discovered that the average waking times for the participants were as often as 7 times in one hour.
However, as expected, those participants most likely to wake up more times during the night were found to present more brain modifications associated with early on-set dementia, or with risk of stroke.
To be more scientific, the team of Canadian researchers found that sleep fragmentation is highly associated with lack of oxygen in the brain, as well as with increased brain vessel damage, both signs of either stroke or dementia.
According to the autopsy results analyzed by the scientists, 61% of the participants’ brains reported signs consistent with moderate to severe blood vessel damage in the brain, while 29% presented signs indicating a stroke.
More expansive results show that as much as 27% of the participants with higher sleep fragmentation has an increased risk of suffering from a stroke, while those that woke up more than 7 times in an hour were 30% more likely to experience visible signs of lack of brain oxygen.
Despite the fact that it would make sense for the many wakeful episodes to increase the participants’ blood pressure, thus leading to damaged blood vessels, the study’s lead author, Andrew Lim, wanted to note that the study was merely observational.
Thus, the Toronto based study doesn’t offer a cause and effect relationship; instead it only shows that there is a connection between the two.
Whether the sleep fragmentation is disruptive to the brain circulation, or the disrupted brain circulation leads to sleep fragmentation, or both are cause by a different factor is still to be determined in a different study.
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