NSF- Too Much Sleep Could Increase Risk of Dementia

2 posts in this topic

Hi Stu,

Even though this study was a nice first step at examining longer sleep as a correlate of concurrent dementia diagnosis, I think that the Sleep Foundation should have done a better job of explaining that all the study shows is that people who are about to be diagnosed with dementia sleep longer than other folks their age. We've got the classical correlational conundrum here: we don't have any way of knowing whether the excess sleep caused the dementia, or whether both the excess sleep and the dementia were caused by a third (and/or fourth and/or fifth...) unmeasured variable. Although the study authors attempted to control for several known contributors to dementia, they couldn't possibly have covered them all - or even known about them all.

And I'm voting for the unmeasured 3rd variable. The same sort of study of narcolepsy at an earlier stage of knowledge about narcolepsy COULD have shown, for example, that people who take naps during the day are more likely to have cataplexy, or sleep paralysis, or hypnagogic & hypnopompic hallucinations. With such a FICTIONAL correlational study, we might all respond by worrying that our naps were causing the other symptoms. And of course, we know that the napping isn't the problem. The underlying unmeasured third variable (and problem) in my fictional study is the absence of hypocretin in the brain and the cascade of problems that causes: inability to stay awake, need to nap, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, HH hallucinations...

So, my bet is that some third variable causes both a need for more sleep in older folks, and the concurrent diagnosis of dementia in some of those longer sleepers. It's hard to imagine sleep as a destructive force... But, I'm not a sleep researcher. Just a former statistician.



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