Oct. 9 (UPI) -- In the short-term, sleep disorders cause an inconvenience. But over time, researchers say, these disorders can increase risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia -- with greatest risk coming for Hispanic people.
Researchers at nine universities examined and followed several thousand Hispanic people in four cities, finding that long sleep duration and chronic insomnia increase risk for cognitive decline.
Previously, no large study using data on Hispanic people in the United States looked at sleep disturbances from the cognitive angle, said Dr. Alberto Ramos, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Miami.
"We observed that prolonged periods of sleep and chronic insomnia symptoms led to declines in memory, executive function and processing speed," Ramos said in a press release. "Those measures can precede the development of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease."
Drawing from a pool of more than 16,000 participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, hailing from Chicago, Miami, San Diego and the Bronx, N.Y., the researchers followed 5,247 people ages 45 to 75.
The selected participants were given a neurocognitive exam at the start of the study, and again seven years later. The researchers also followed self-reported sleep habits and issues, as well as other relevant health aspects such as medication adherence.
Having found the elevated seven-year risk for dementia among those with greater sleep issues, the researchers say that looking at the circadian rhythms and genetics of those with sleep disorders could help clarify the link between them and neurocognitive decline.
"We may also be able to identify at-risk patients who may benefit from early intervention to prevent or reduce the risk of dementia," Ramos said.