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Study of Sleep in Older Adults Suggests Nixing Naps, Striving for 7-9 hours a Night

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Napping, as well as sleeping too much or too little or having poor sleep patterns, appears to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in older adults, new research shows.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adds to a growing body of evidence supporting sleep’s importance to good health. The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration to its checklist of health and lifestyle factors for cardiovascular health, known as Life’s Essential 8. It says adults should average seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

“Good sleep behavior is essential to preserve cardiovascular health in middle-aged and older adults,” said lead author Weili Xu, a senior researcher at the Aging Research Center in the department of neurobiology, care sciences and society at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “We encourage people to keep nighttime sleeping between seven to nine hours and to avoid frequent or excessive napping.”

Prior research has shown poor sleep may put people at higher risk for a range of chronic illnesses and conditions affecting heart and brain health. These include cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35% of U.S. adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep, while 3.6% say they get 10 or more hours.

Previous sleep duration studies show that sleeping too much or too little both may raise the risk for cardiovascular disease. But whether napping is good or bad has been unclear.

In the new study, researchers analyzed sleep patterns for 12,268 adults in the Swedish Twin Registry. Participants were an average of 70 years old at the start of the study, with no history of major cardiovascular events.

A questionnaire was used to collect data on nighttime sleep duration; daytime napping; daytime sleepiness; the degree to which they considered themselves a night person or morning person, based on the time of day they considered themselves most alert; and symptoms of sleep disorders, such as snoring and insomnia. Participants were followed for up to 18 years to track whether they developed any major cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.

People who reported sleeping between seven and nine hours each night were least likely to develop cardiovascular disease, a finding in keeping with prior research. Compared with that group, those who reported less than seven hours were 14% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and those who reported more than 10 hours were 10% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

Compared with people who said they never napped, those who reported napping up to 30 minutes were 11% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The risk increased by 23% if naps lasted longer than 30 minutes. Overall, those who reported poor sleep patterns or other sleep issues – including insomnia, heavy snoring, getting too much or too little sleep, frequent daytime sleepiness and considering themselves a night person – had a 22% higher risk

Study participants who reported less than seven hours of sleep at night and napping more than 30 minutes each day had the highest risk for cardiovascular disease – 47% higher than those reporting the optimal amount of sleep and no naps.

The jury is still out on whether naps affect cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, center director for the Sleep Center of Excellence and an associate professor at Columbia University in New York City. She noted that the new research, which she was not involved in, was restricted to older adults.

Rather than trying to recoup sleep time by napping, people should try to develop healthier sleep habits that allow them to get an optimal amount of sleep at night, St-Onge said. This includes making sure the sleep environment is not too hot or cold or too noisy. Reducing exposure to bright light before going to sleep, not eating too late at night, getting enough exercise during the day and eating a healthful diet also help.

“Even if sleep is lost during the night, excessive napping is not suggested during the day,” Xu said. And, if people have persistent trouble getting enough sleep, they should consult a health care professional to figure out why, she said.


Source: American Heart Association

Lots of Napping Could Raise a Senior’s Odds for Alzheimer’s

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Taking longer or more frequent naps during the day may sound enticing, but it may be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s disease.

Older adults who nap throughout the day may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, while napping may also be a consequence of advancing Alzheimer’s, a new study suggests.

“Daytime napping and Alzheimer’s disease seem to be driving each other’s changes in a bi-directional way,” said study author Dr. Yue Leng. She is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

The bottom line? “Older adults, and especially those with Alzheimer’s disease, should pay more attention to their daytime napping behaviors,” Leng said.

There are several potential ways that daytime napping and Alzheimer’s may be linked.

“It could be a reflection of underlying Alzheimer’s pathology at the preclinical stage that affects the wake-promoting network and contributes to increased daytime sleepiness,” she said. “Excessive daytime napping might also impact and interact with nighttime sleep, resulting in altered 24-hour circadian rhythms, which has also been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.”

For the study, more than 1,400 older Americans, average age 81, wore a watch-like activity monitor for two weeks every year. Any prolonged period of no activity from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. was considered a nap. Participants also underwent a battery of neurological tests each year.

When the study started, more than three-quarters of participants showed no signs of any cognitive impairment, 19.5% had mild cognitive impairment, and slightly more than 4% had Alzheimer’s disease.

Daily napping increased by about 11 minutes per year among folks who didn’t develop cognitive impairment during roughly 14 years of follow-up. The greater the increase in naps, the more quickly memory and thinking skills declined, the findings showed.

The rate of increase in naps doubled after a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment and nearly tripled after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the report published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Another part of the study sought to determine if napping is a risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. To answer this question, the researchers compared participants who had normal memories and thinking skills at the start of the study but developed Alzheimer’s disease to their counterparts whose thinking remained stable during the study. They found that older people who napped more than an hour a day had a 40% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than just memory and thinking skills, said study author Dr. Aron Buchman. He’s a professor of neurology at Rush University Medical Center and a neurologist at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, in Chicago.

In some, this disease may steal memories, but in others, it may result in sleep issues. In others, it could affect motor function, Buchman said.

“More studies are needed to better understand the relationship between napping and Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s possible that improving sleep may be a way of modifying the course of Alzheimer’s disease and its manifold manifestations,” he added.

Experts who were not involved with the study caution that it is way too early to say napping increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Study patients could have already had pre-clinical signs of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains, said Ricardo Osorio, director of the Center for Sleep and Brain Health at NYU Langone in New York City. “At age 80, even with no symptoms, it is quite common to have Alzheimer’s pathology in the brain,” he explained.

In the future, research should look at napping patterns in younger people and follow them to see who develops Alzheimer’s disease and who doesn’t, Osorio suggested.

People can nap for reasons that have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s disease, he said. Daytime naps may be a result of sleep apnea, overexertion during the day, or even depression and loneliness. “We need to tease out the other things that may cause people to nap more before drawing conclusions,” Osorio added.

There are other caveats as well, said Dr. Derek Chong, vice chair of neurology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“This study was performed in Chicago, where the society tends to have only one sleep period at night,” Chong said. “Many other cultures and societies have a siesta or midday nap that is often longer than one hour long, and some of these cultures are known to have slow aging, so these results may not be applicable worldwide.”

Still, this study does call attention to the health consequences of poor sleep, he noted.

“Even though the study does not tell us the cause for why people need to nap more, it should remind us the importance of daytime stimulation, seeking help with depression, and high-quality sleep, and checking with your doctor for things like sleep apnea, especially when we are sleepy during the day,” Chong said.


Source: HealthDay

Study: Midday Nap Could Leave You Smarter

“You snooze, you lose” may not be true when it comes to your brain: A new study finds that napping in the afternoon may actually boost mental agility.

The study couldn’t prove cause and effect, but a midday nap was associated with a rise in “locational awareness,” verbal fluency and working memory, the Chinese researchers reported Jan. 25 in the journal General Psychiatry.

“Among the things that are good for you and fun, you can now count daytime naps,” said Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist specializing in memory disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“We know that healthy sleep habits are protective for dementia and this study suggests that at least for some, midday naps may be of benefit in keeping the brain healthy,” said Devi, who wasn’t involved in the new research. He stressed, however, that “more studies are needed to confirm this preliminary finding.”

The new study was led by Dr Lin Sun, of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Center at the Shanghai Mental Health Center, in Shanghai. Sun’s team collected data on more than 2,200 people at least age 60 who lived in Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xian.

In all, more than 1,500 took regular afternoon naps, which were no more than two hours long, and 680 did not.

Study participants were given tests that judge several aspects of mental ability including visuospatial skills, working memory, attention span, problem-solving, locational awareness and verbal fluency.

Those who took afternoon naps scored higher than those who didn’t, and there were significant differences in locational awareness, verbal fluency and memory.

According to the study team, there are theories why naps may be beneficial. One is that naps help ease inflammation, which plays a role in sleep disorders and overall health.

Dr. Melissa Bernbaum directs epilepsy and ambulatory sleep medicine at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. Reading over the Chinese findings, she said they “seem to indicate a cognitive benefit for napping.”

But Bernbaum added that the “duration and frequency of naps may also be important.”

For example, “individuals who fall asleep unintentionally during the day — potentially due to underlying medical or sleep disorders — may not perform as well as individuals who take planned naps,” Bernbaum said. Future studies might tease out whether the type of midday snooze taken matters when it comes to brain health,” she said.


Source: HealthDay