“Sleep becomes more fragile as you age and the prevalence of insomnia increases,” says Dang-Vu, Concordia Research Chair in Sleep, Neuroimaging and Cognitive Health at Concordia’s Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology and the PERFORM Centre, is also a medical doctor at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.
“In the general population, chronic insomnia, which is insomnia for more than three months, is about 10 to 15 per cent. In the elderly, people older than 65, insomnia rates can be between 30 and 34 per cent, or one third of the population — at least double that of younger people,” he says.
That's a problem, Dang-Vu explains, because the population is more fragile. Insomniacs have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety. Too often, insomnia is treated with sleeping pills and patients become dependent.
“We’ve recruited 20 participants over 65 years of age who take benzodiazepines — like Ativan, Klonopin and Serax, for example — to spend the night at our sleep lab,” says Dang-Vu, who won the 2015 Roger Broughton Young Investigator Award from the Canadian Sleep Society in recognition of his significant early career contributions to the field of sleep research in Canada.
“We’re offering them a treatment called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI),” says Dang-Vu, who wants to see if CBTI will improve their cognition.
“If that's the case, it would emphasize the importance of treating insomnia for maintaining good cognitive function with age,” he says. “With age, we have a larger risk of developing memory problems. Sleep might be one of these aspects that help prevent the development of dementia. It’s important to look at that.”
The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé and the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.
For more information about Thanh Dang-Vu’s sleep lab, visit the Facebook page.
To participate in Dang-Vu’s sleep study, contact study coordinator Caroline Desrosiers at 514-340-3540, ext. 4790, or email email@example.com.