Oversleeping a Contributor to Mental Incapacity?

October 16, 2013 Hull & Hull LLP Capacity Tags: 0 Comments

A recent study by researchers at Columbia University and the Hospital University of Madrid suggests that too much sleep may cause dementia. The subjects of the study who slept for nine hours or more every night were twice as likely to develop memory loss and other cognitive deficiencies than those who slept less.

The cause for the correlation is currently unknown. The decreased mental capacity for individuals oversleeping equals approximately 0.2 points per year on a Mini-Mental State Examination, a test commonly administered by healthcare professionals in determining mental capacity. This change is relatively modest, but appears to have the potential to accumulate in effect over time.

This finding is inconsistent with the traditional association of getting a proper night’s sleep with good health, as well as the typical association of insufficient sleep with mental disorders, ranging from insomnia to schizophrenia. Established contributors to the development of early-onset dementia more closely resemble factors commonly related to the development of other health problems: high blood pressure, depression, drug abuse, and family history of mental illness. 

The study’s authors also noted the possibility that oversleeping could be an early sign of cognitive issues that will later become apparent as they develop further. It has not yet been established that the increased risk of dementia is actually caused by the extra sleep. Further, it should be noted that the average amount of daily sleep for most Canadian age brackets is already within the recommended six to eight hours. The average for Canadians aged 16-24 years old and 75 or older approaches nine hours per night.  

The study’s authors believe that this discovery may have practical implications, since the amount of time that we spend sleeping is something that can be controlled (to some degree, at least). According to the results, sleeping between six to eight hours daily can actually decrease the risk of developing dementia. Physical activity and a healthy diet are also believed to assist in retaining mental capacity as we age.

Thank you for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag

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