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Health 411: Can napping affect your nighttime sleep?

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February 27th, 2009
A new study shows a link between nighttime sleep deficiencies and daytime napping in older adults. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center measured the nighttime and daytime sleep of 235 people with an average age of 80.1 years. The results showed naps of at least five minutes duration were recorded by 75% of study participants. The tendency to nap was higher for people with nighttime sleep fragmentation (disrupted sleep), respiratory symptoms, diabetes, and pain. According to study author Susanne E. Goldman, Ph.D., the study points out the need for health care providers to discuss nighttime sleep and daytime napping with older adults. It also illustrates the need to identify causes of disturbed nighttime sleep. Memory loss linked to sleep disorder University of California, Los Angeles, researchers have found people with sleep apnea show tissue loss in areas of the brain that help store memory. Sleep apnea occurs when a blocked airway repeatedly halts the sleeper s breathing, resulting in snoring and daytime fatigue. Memory loss and difficulty focusing are also common complaints among sleep apnea sufferers. Researchers scanned the brains of 43 sleep apnea patients and compared the results to a control group. Structures in the brain called mammillary bodies were found to be nearly 20% smaller in the sleep apnea patients. According to principal investigator Ronald Harper, the findings demonstrate that impaired breathing during sleep can lead to serious brain injury that disrupts memory and thinking. The study s findings stress the importance of early detection of sleep apnea.

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