It is known that sleep disturbance is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, but this association has not been carefully investigated in older veterans. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2014, Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues reported on the results of a retrospective study of sleep disturbance and dementia among 200,000 veterans age 55 and older, 96.5% of whom were male.
The researchers examined 8 years of the veterans’ medical records. After controlling for variables such as gender, income, education, and health status, they found that veterans who had a diagnosis of nonspecific sleep disturbance, apnea, or insomnia at baseline had a 30% increased risk of dementia compared with veterans with no diagnosed sleep problems. They also found that veterans with both PTSD and sleep disturbance had an 80% increased risk of dementia.
“This is the first investigation into the link between sleep disturbance and dementia in a large cohort of older, mostly male veterans,” says Yaffe in a release. “Further research is needed to clarify the role of sleep disturbance as either a risk factor for, or an early symptom of, dementia among veterans, and in other populations as well.”