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Researchers Study Links Between Sleep, Sleep Medicine And Dementia

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Do you notice your thinking is affected by how you sleep?

Here's what some people in Market Square said:

"If I sleep well, I definitely feel I can concentrate, and my thinking is much better the next day."
"If I don't get a good night sleep, I just feel like really kind of distracted, can't focus on a lot."
"Sometimes if I sleep too much, I feel lazy."

Is poor sleep related to memory troubles? And are sleep medicines a risk factor for dementia?

AHN sleep specialist Dr. Khalid Malik sees patients with sleep problems who notice that their thinking is off.

"Recalling may be a problem, calculation, forgetfulness," Dr. Malik said.

Researchers looked into this issue and presented their findings at a national conference on Alzheimer's disease.

In separate studies following people in their 60s and 70s for more than a decade, the more frequently someone used sleep medicine, the more likely they were to develop memory and thinking troubles.

Studies like this can't prove cause and effect, but raise the question, is it the poor sleep or the medication that leads to the condition, or a problem with the brain that leads to the poor sleep?

"Sleep disturbance can be the first sign of a neurodegenerativedisorder," says AHN neuropsychologist Carol Schramke, PhD. "People chronically deprived of sleep are more likely to have high blood pressure, to have problems with diabetes, to have other health problems that also increase your risk of developing dementia."

Certain sleep medicines can interfere with the brain chemicals important to thinking, concentration and memory.

"We've seen people who have come to the hospital acutely confused because of the side effects of sleep medicine," Dr. Schramke adds.

Getting good sleep, if possible without medications, is the best way to go.

"If you can improve your sleep, get good sleep, get good exercise, which improves your sleep, and also improves your cardiovascular health, all of those things together will really improve your health and reduce your risk of dementia," she says.

Dr. Malik agrees.

"Any time sleep is good, you are good," he said.

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