Credit: © / Fotolia

Credit: © / Fotolia

Less REM sleep is linked to higher risk of dementia

Less REM sleep is linked to higher risk of dementia, according to the latest research from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

REM stands for rapid eye movement. During this phase of sleep, your eyes move quickly in different directions. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. REM is essential to a good nights rest.

The new study found that those who get less REM sleep may have a higher risk of developing dementia.

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 study author Matthew P. Pase, PhD, of Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. “We set out to discover which stages of sleep may be linked to dementia and while we did not find a link with deep sleep, we did with REM sleep.”

The AAN press release reported the following study methods:

For the study, researchers looked at 321 people with an average age of 67 from Massachusetts who participated in The Framingham Heart Study. During that study, sleep cycles were measured for each participant. Researchers collected the sleep data and then followed participants for an average of 12 years. During that time, 32 people were diagnosed with some form of dementia and of those, 24 were determined to have Alzheimer’s disease.

They found that those who developed dementia had an average of 17 percent REM sleep, while those who didn’t develop dementia had 20 percent.

Our findings point to REM sleep as a predictor of dementia,” said Pase. “The next step will be to determine why lower REM sleep predicts a greater risk of dementia. By clarifying the role of sleep in the onset of dementia, the hope is to eventually identify possible ways to intervene so that dementia can be delayed or even prevented.”

The study showing that less REM sleep is linked to higher risk of dementia was published in the journal Neurology. 

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1. “Less REM Sleep Tied to Greater Risk of Dementia.” American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Neurology, 23 Aug. 2017,
2. “Sleep Architecture and the Risk of Incident Dementia in the Community.” Neurology, American Academy of Neurology, 23 Aug. 2017,
3. “What Are REM and Non-REM Sleep?” WebMD, WebMD,

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