The study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, showed that the dreaming phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, affects the risk of alzheimer’s.

The amount of sleep loss may not even be enough for the person to notice, the researchers found.

“Sleep disturbances are common in dementia but little is known about the various stages of sleep and whether they play a role in dementia risk,” said Matthew Pase of the Boston University School of Medicine, leader of the study. “Our findings point to REM sleep as a predictor of dementia.”

For the study, the researchers looked at 321 people over the age of 60 who volunteered for a sleep study in the 90s. They were followed for an average of 12 years, during which time 32 developed dementia. Of those, 24 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Those who had just a little bit less REM sleep during the sleep test were more likely to be in the dementia group, the team reported.

It’s not clear if the disordered sleep is a cause or an early effect of the dementia process.

“Our findings point to REM sleep as a predictor of dementia,” Pase said. “The next step will be to determine why lower REM sleep predicts a greater risk of dementia.”

Source: NBC News

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