Disturbed Sleep A Dementia Risk Factor in U.S. Veterans

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U.S. veterans with disturbed sleep tended to have a higher risk of developing dementia, according to a study presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen.

Veterans who suffered from sleep disturbances had a 30% higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia during the following eight years (hazard ratio 1.30, 95% CI 1.24-1.38), compared with those without disturbances, Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues, reported. The study was adjusted for history of traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular illnesses, and other potential factors.

Other studies have found a correlation between poor sleep and dementia. However, Yaffe noted that her study was the first to examine it specifically in veterans and with a large number of participants (192,000 records provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs).

The data showed that 100.6% of the sleep-disturbed veterans received a diagnosis of dementia during follow-up, compared with 9.0% of the veterans who slept normally.

In addition, Yaffe and her colleagues found that sleep disturbances predicted increased likelihood of most kinds of dementia, especially Lewy body dementia, for which the hazard ratio was 2.05 (95% CI 1.59-2.62).

However, Yaffe said during a news conference that “more research is needed” before she could advise that therapy for sleep difficulties could lower dementia risk. Yaffe added it wasn’t clear whether sleep abnormalities are cause by dementia either.

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Disturbed sleep was a significant and independent risk factor for subsequent development of dementia among U.S. military veterans, according to a large registry study reported this week.

With adjustments for education, history of traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular diseases, and other potential confounders, veterans 55 and older with any type of sleep disturbance were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with new-onset dementia during the following 8 years (hazard ratio 1.30, 95% CI 1.24-1.38), relative to those without sleep problems, according to Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues.

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