2 new studies suggest that if you don’t get enough sleep you increase your risk for dementia.
In a recent study at Harvard Medical School, researchers studied more than 2800 people aged 65 years and older.
Researchers found that individuals who slept fewer than 5 hours per night were twice as likely to develop dementia and twice as likely to die early. This is compared to those who slept 6-8 hours per night.
In another study, European researchers studied 8000 middle aged people’s sleep habits. These participants tended to increase the risk of dementia by 30% if they consistently slept six hours or less. Most of the people in this study were better educated, white and healthier than the general population.
Inadequate sleep in midlife may lead to dementia
Previous studies showed that lack of sleep can affect memory. These 2 new studies show that inadequate sleep in midlife raises one’s risk of dementia. These studies suggest that poor sleep can increase one’s risk of developing dementia for the population which is 50 years of age or younger, 25 or more years in the future!
Flush your brain while you sleep
It is not totally understood why inadequate sleep increases your dementia risk but one culprit could be the beta amyloid. Beta amyloid is a peptide or protein that accumulates in between the neurons or brain cells. The neurons have a space in between them (cell synapse) where neurotransmitters create a chemical junction between the cells. This chemical connection allows for communication between the cells.
An accumulation of beta amyloid proteins may cause clustering and clumping in the synapse interfering with communication.
When we sleep the brain cells get flushed with cerebral spinal fluid. So the beta amyloid and other substances that accumulate can be flushed away.
These substances, if not flushed away, the theory goes, is that they will cause oxidation or chronic inflammation and actually destroy the synapses on the brain cells.
The bottom line
Sleep is absolutely necessary for good brain health just like eating right and exercising. If you can’t get all the nutrients, (vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants) from foods, click here for my favorite products.* These 2 new studies show that the harmful effects of inadequate sleep can start at age 50 or earlier. These effects can also lead to early dementia and death.
The good news is that you can reduce your risk of dementia by getting adequate sleep - 6-8 hours per night. Try to avoid sleeping pills, as they don’t give you the deep sleep you need. If you are having trouble sleeping, try nonpharmacological approaches.
Additionally, the Lancet Commission describes 12 modifiable risk factors to prevent dementia including hearing loss as the highest risk factor.
My VISION: A World Free of Dementia/Alzheimer’s
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.