According to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, getting six or fewer hours of sleep a night can be linked to many health issues including Dementia. If you are a night owl, suffer from insomnia, or otherwise don’t get a full night’s sleep consistently, you might be setting yourself up for failure down the line. Keep reading to learn more about Dementia, how not sleeping enough is linked to it, and how you can start improving your sleep tonight.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a specific disease but is instead a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia primarily affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging.

Facts about Dementia include:

  • Dementia is a term used to describe different brain disorders that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotion
  • There is currently no cure for dementia
  • There are currently estimated to be over 50 million people worldwide living with dementia
  • The number of people affected is set to rise to 152 million by 2050, with the greatest increases in low and middle-income countries
  • Already 60% of people with dementia live in low and middle-income countries, but by 2050 this will rise to 71%
  • A new case of dementia arises somewhere in the world every 3 seconds
  • Up to three-quarters of those with dementia worldwide have not received a diagnosis
  • Almost 80% of the general public are concerned about developing dementia at some point
  • 1 in 4 people think that there is nothing we can do to prevent dementia
  • Almost 62% of healthcare practitioners worldwide incorrectly believe that dementia is part of normal aging
  • 35% of carers across the world said that they have hidden the diagnosis of dementia of a family member
  • Over 50% of carers globally say their health has suffered as a result of their caring responsibilities, even while expressing positive sentiments about their role

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the type of dementia the individual suffers from and other various factors. However, people with dementia have problems with:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Communication
  • Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
  • Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision

Signs that may point to dementia include:

  • Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
  • Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend
  • Forgetting old memories
  • Not being able to complete tasks independently

The Link Between Sleep and Dementia

After following nearly 8,000 people for 25 years, the study found a higher dementia risk with a “sleep duration of six hours or less at age 50 and 60” as compared to those who slept seven hours a night. In addition, persistent short sleep duration between the ages of 50, 60, and 70 was also associated with a “30% increased dementia risk,” independent of “sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors,” including depression, the study said.

“Sleep is important for normal brain function and is also thought to be important for clearing toxic proteins that build up in dementias from the brain,” said Tara Spires-Jones, who is deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland, in a statement. Spires-Jones was not involved in the study.

“What’s the message for us all? Evidence of sleep disturbance can occur a long time before the onset of other clinical evidence of dementia,” said Tom Dening in a statement. He heads the Centre for Dementia at the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Links Between Sleep and Dementia, From Other Studies

  • People who get less REM, or dream-stage sleep, may be at higher risk for developing dementia
  • Healthy middle-aged adults who slept badly for just one night produced an abundance of beta-amyloid plaques, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Study subjects who had sleep issues were more likely to show evidence of tau pathology, brain cell damage, and inflammation, even when other factors like depression, body mass, cardiovascular disease, and sleep medications were taken into account.

How to Get Better Sleep

If you have one of the various risk factors for dementia and consistently get six or fewer hours of sleep per night, it is crucial to get better sleep now to minimize your risk. Some of the risk factors for dementia include:

  • Age. The strongest known risk factor for dementia is increasing age, with most cases affecting those of 65 years and older.
  • Family history. Those who have parents or siblings with dementia are more likely to develop dementia themselves.
  • Race/ethnicity. Older African Americans are twice more likely to have dementia than whites. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to have dementia than whites.
  • Poor heart health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase the risk of dementia if not appropriately treated.
  • Traumatic brain injury. Head injuries can increase the risk of dementia, especially if they are severe or occur repeatedly.

Practice Healthy Sleep Habits

Healthy sleep habits include:

  1. Keep a consistent wake-up time, even during the weekends. This will help “train” your body to be up at a particular time and, in turn, want to sleep at a specific time.
  2. Choose a bedtime and stick to it.
  3. Use your bed for sleeping only — if you work, watch TV, or do other things in your bed, your body won’t become triggered for sleep.
  4. Establish a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities and minimal electronic devices.
  5. Set the stage: Keep your room dark and cool, and use white noise

Start When You Wake Up

Getting better sleep at night all begins from the moment you wake up. Rearranging your schedule to do different things at different times can make all the difference in your sleep. Some of these include:

  • Exercise regularly, but not too late at night. Exercise is excellent for sleep; however, it can keep you awake if it is done too close to bedtime due to the high endorphins and adrenaline.
  • Do not drink caffeine after lunchtime, and do not drink alcohol too close to bedtime.
  • Get outside early and often. More light exposure during the day will help with your body’s circadian rhythm and help you sleep better at night.
  • Eat your larger meals earlier in the day, and don’t eat dinner too close to bedtime. If you’re hungry before bed, eat a light snack and watch how much sugar or carbs it contains.

Get Checked for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition marked by abnormal breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea have multiple extended pauses in breath when they sleep. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, leading to potentially serious health consequences. Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States. It can affect children and adults, and people of both sexes, although it is more common in men.

Sleep apnea can disturb sleep and cause frequent awakenings. This can lead to 6 hours of sleep or less, ultimately leading to issues down the road with dementia. Since sleep apnea is so common among middle-aged men, it is very important to check for sleep apnea and get treated.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

One of the significant causes of sleep apnea is an obstruction in the airway. By clearing this obstruction, your sleep apnea will improve, and so will your sleep. There are a few ways to remove the obstruction in the airway, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Oral appliance
  • Nasal decongestants
  • CPAP machine
  • Surgery

About Gorman Health and Wellness

Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.

Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.

“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.

For more information on Dr. Gorman, improving your sleep apnea, and decreasing your chances for dementia, contact us today.

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