The first study looked at the sleep habits of 2800 people over the age of 65 in 2013 or 2014 and returned to assess either the development of dementia, or death, five years later. Those who slept less than five hours a night were twice as likely to get dementia or die, compared with those who slept six to eight hours a night.
The second study, involving 8000 people in their 50s, 60s and 70s concluded that those who regularly slept six hours or less had a 30% increased risk of dementia compared with those getting seven hours sleep.
The key finding from both these studies, according to Dr Budson, is that insufficient sleep in middle age increases the risk of dementia. If you’re over 50 and not getting enough sleep now, chances are this may impact you in a few decades’ time.
A protein called beta amyloid, which is said to protect against infection, is produced in everyone’s brain during the day. When Alzheimer’s develops however, fragments of this protein cluster together, forming plaques. During sleep, brain cells and their connections shrink which creates space, allowing this and other substances to be flushed away. So lack of sleep means the brain doesn’t get enough time to flush out, and the proteins build up, eventually causing dementia.
Another study of people with increased genetic risk of getting dementia found that adequate sleep also reduced the onset of tangles (twisted strands of protein) in the brain.
The simple message, says Dr Budson, is that you should aim to get between six and eight hours sleep per night, without the use of drugs.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider some of the numerous natural methods of enhancing sleep, through meditation, Qigong, mindfulness, yoga or naturopathy. To find out more, consider booking a free discovery call with one of our practitioners by clicking the image below.
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