If you sleep this many hours, you could be at risk for this devastating brain disease

Getting enough sleep these days is harder than finding a seat on the subway during a morning commute. Nine months in the pandemic, we’ve adapted to whatever this “new normal” is. Really, it’s normal at this point. However, a new study will make you want to catch some quality Zzz’s more than ever.

Hopefully, new routines have been set and sleepers are getting at least seven hours of sleep, the recommended amount by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Judging how Americans slept the past year is a cause for concern. A recent study found that more than half of Americans said 2020 was the worst year for sleep they’ve had in their lives. Six in 10 Americans said that getting the right sleep routine was their top priority heading into 2021.

For those who’ve been sleeping more during the pandemic than before, it’s a troubling development considering extended sleep hours could double the risk of developing dementia.

A study by the Boston University Medical Center in 2017 found that people who slept nine hours or more doubled the risk of developing dementia compared to others who slept less than that mark.

Dementia affects memory, thinking, and social abilities that can be debilitating and inhibit daily activities, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include memory loss, trouble speaking, difficulty problem solving, difficulty organization among other cognitive changes. Psychologically, it could lead to depression, anxiety, and even personality changes.

The study, which appeared in the journal Neurology, examined the Framingham Heart Study which calculated total hours of sleep of 2,457 participants over the course of 10 years. There, they wanted to see the link between sleep duration and the risk of dementia and brain aging. A total of 234 cases of dementia were reported in the 10-year follow-up.

“Prolonged sleep duration may be a marker of early neurodegeneration and hence a useful clinical tool to identify those at a higher risk of progressing to clinical dementia within 10 years,” researchers said in the study.

Sudha Seshadri, professor of neurology at BUSM and FHS senior investigator, said at the time that education mattered in dementia development.

“Participants without a high school degree who sleep for more than 9 hours each night had six times the risk of developing dementia in 10 years as compared to participants who slept for less. These results suggest that being highly educated may protect against dementia in the presence of long sleep duration,” Seshadri said.

Regardless of your educational background, it’s worth thinking twice (or setting another alarm) before sleeping too much.

Covid and the risk of dementia

COVID-19 has been linked to aging the brain by 10 years, but a separate study published by AARP found that the negative effects of the virus could create a possible surge in cases of “dementia and cognitive decline” for years to come.

“It’s possible — I’d even say it’s probable — that having COVID-19 will increase your risk of dementia,” Gabriel de Erausquin, M.D., a professor of neurology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, said this month. “We just don’t have enough information yet to answer that question with certainty.”