New research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019 in Los Angeles highlights the relationship between sleep medication and dementia.
It examines the use of sleep medicines in mid-life in diverse groups and found surprising differences in their impact on later-life risk of dementia.
More frequent use of sleep medications may be associated with higher risk of dementia, especially in older white adults compared to older black adults who experienced reduced risk. Whether the change in risk is due to the medications or sleep problems is not yet known.
Men over 65 years of age who used sleep medications were at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia, as were some women. However, women who used sleep medications but did not have interrupted sleep had a reduced risk.
Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, says: “Sleep is a hot topic in dementia research. Emerging findings suggest that damaged proteins can be cleared out of our brain while we sleep, which could lower our risk of dementia – but we’re waiting for proof.
“From these studies, we can’t say whether people taking sleep medication are at increased risk of dementia because they have poor sleep to start with, or because it’s an effect of the medication. Based on earlier research, both could be possible. We know certain types of anticholinergic medications that include some sleeping pills can lead to an increased risk of dementia.
“Sleep and dementia are turning out to have a complex relationship – and even more so when you factor in gender and ethnicity. We just don’t know enough yet to make any specific recommendations, other than to make sure you get a good night’s kip!”