Sleep well and reduce the risk of dementia and death. Harvard Health Blog


In a recent one blog post I discussed the benefit of sleep for the memory function. But sleep is not only good for your memory; it can actually reduce the risk of dementia and death. Although it has long been known that people with dementia tend to be poor, they are fragmented, two new studies suggest that if you don’t get enough sleep, you have a higher risk of dementia.

Sleep six to eight hours each night

A la first study, researchers at Harvard Medical School studied more than 2,800 individuals age 65 and older who participated in the National Health and Aging Trends Study to examine the relationship between their self-report of sleep characteristics in 2013 or 2014 and the their development of dementia and / or death. five years later. The researchers found that people who slept less than five hours a night were twice as likely to develop dementia and twice as likely to die, compared to those who slept six to eight hours a night. This study monitored demographic characteristics such as age, marital status, race, education, health conditions, and body weight.

A la second study, researchers in Europe (including France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Finland) examined data from nearly 8,000 participants in a different study and found that constantly sleeping six hours or less at age 50, 60, and 70 associated with 30% increase in the risk of dementia compared to a normal sleep duration of seven hours. The mean age at diagnosis of dementia was 77 years. This study monitored sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors, although most participants were white, better educated, and healthier than the general population. In addition, approximately half of the participants objectively measured their sleep duration using a usable accelerometer (a device that tracked their sleep using body movements), which confirmed the questionnaire data.

Inadequate sleep in middle age can cause dementia

The novelty here is that inadequate sleep in middle age increases the risk of dementia. There are many reasons to have poor sleep in middle age: shift work, insomnia, caring responsibilities, anxiety, and urgent deadlines, just to name a few. While not all of them are controllable, some are. For example, if you currently only sleep four to five hours because you have finished work every night, you may want to change your habits, otherwise you risk developing dementia when you retire.

This relationship between sleep in middle age and late life dementia is important not only from a clinical but also a scientific perspective. It had always been a bit of an egg and chicken problem when trying to interpret the relationship between bad sleep and dementia. Was it really a bad sleep that caused dementia, or just early symptoms of dementia that caused poor sleep? If we examine people who were initially studied in middle age (some as young as 50), we are now more certain that a bad sleep can increase the risk of developing dementia 25 years or more in the future.

Wash your brain while you sleep

Although it is not fully understood why inadequate sleep increases the risk of dementia, one possible reason is related to the deposition of the Alzheimer’s protein, beta amyloid. Beta amyloid is the protein that clumps together and clumps together to form Alzheimer’s plaques. No one is completely sure what their normal function is, although there is growing evidence that they are involved. the defense of the brain against invasive microorganisms.

During the day, we all make some of this amyloid beta protein in the brain. When we sleep, however, brain cells and their connections actually do shrink. This reduction allows more space between brain cells, so beta amyloid and other substances that accumulate during the day can be produced. dragged.

So the theory is that if you don’t get enough sleep, your brain won’t have enough time to drain amyloid beta and other substances. These substances continue to accumulate day after day until they cause dementia.

The good news

The good news is that you can reduce your risk of developing dementia by sleeping properly. A study of Toronto and Chicago researchers examined people who had a higher genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They found that better sleep not only reduced the likelihood of developing clinical Alzheimer’s disease, but also reduced the development of pathologies of entanglement in the brain, another substance that accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease.

The conclusion

Sleep is not just an annoying interruption between important aspects of our waking life. The same that eat well i Do exercise, sleep is absolutely essential for good brain health. These two new studies show that the harmful effects of inadequate sleep can begin at age 50 (if not earlier) and can lead to dementia and death. But the good news is that you can reduce your risk of dementia by simply getting six or eight hours of sleep each night. Try to avoid sleeping pills as they do not provide you with the deep sleep you need. If you have trouble sleeping, non-pharmacological approaches they are the best.

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