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Too little dream sleep raises dementia risk

People who have less rapid eye movement (REM) – the stage when dreaming occurs – during sleep may be at greater risk of dementia, a study shows.

People who have less rapid eye movement (REM) – the stage when dreaming occurs – during sleep may be at greater risk of dementia, a study shows

sleep
REM sleep features increased brain activity. Picture: iStock

People who have less rapid eye movement (REM) – the stage when dreaming occurs – during sleep may be at greater risk of dementia, a study shows.

Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, examined data from 321 people with an average age of 67 who were taking part in the 19-year Framingham Heart Study in the United States.

During the study, 32 people were diagnosed with dementia, including 24 with Alzheimer’s.

Brain activity

Those who developed dementia were found to spend an average 17% of sleep having REM, which features increased brain activity as well as higher body temperature, quicker pulse rate and faster breathing.

Those who did not develop dementia had REM for 20% of their sleep.

After adjusting for age and sex, researchers found that for every 1% reduction in REM sleep there was a 9% increase in the risk of dementia.


Pase M et al (2017) Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community. Neurology. doi: http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1212/​WNL.​0000000000004373

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