A good night's rest can reduce the risk of cognitive complications
A restful night's sleep can be more elusive as we get older. New evidence shows how sleep really matters. It's not just to look fresh and feel good, but also to keep your brain healthy.
After following nearly 8,000 people for 25 years, the study found a higher risk of dementia with a "sleep duration of six hours or less, in the 50s and 60s", compared to those who slept seven hours a night. The research was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), of the NIH. The results appeared in Nature's Communications, April 20, 2021.
"Sleep is important for the normal functioning of the brain and is also considered important for the elimination of toxic proteins", says Tara Spires-Jonesdirectora, deputy of the Center for Brain Sciences of Discovery, University of Edinburgh, in Scotland.
Furthermore, persistent short sleep duration between the ages of 50, 60 and 70 years was also associated with a "30% increase in the risk of dementia", regardless of sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic factors , and mental health", including depression, according to the study.
Short sleep may contribute to the development of diseases
Dr. Azizi Seixas, sleep specialist at NYU Langone Health, says it's a critical health behavior to consider when getting older, and that sleep helps clear the brain of associated plaques to Alzheimer's disease.
Does this mean that, if we sleep six hours or less, we will have cognitive problems? Dr. Seixas says that this significantly increases your risk.
"And so people should take this discovery as a warning of public conscience," said Dr. Seixas.
To make sure you get these crucial seven hours or more, you must treat sleep as an investment. Relax before going to bed, avoid heavy meals and alcohol before bedtime. Also, turn off your electronics to let your head rest.
Healthy, middle-aged adults who slept poorly for just one night produced an abundance of beta amyloid plaques - one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, another study published in 2017 revealed. Beta-amyloid is a sticky protein compound that disrupts communication between brain cells, eventually killing the cells as it accumulates in the brain.
One week of disturbed sleep increased the amount of tau, another protein responsible for the tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease, frontal lobe dementia, and Lewy body disease, the study found.
Are you craving sleep? Check out these tips for dealing with insomnia
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Furthermore, we have listed some recommendations for you to start, now,to improve your sleep:
- Control your environment A comfortable bed in a cool, dark and calm room is the most conducive setting for a high quality sleep.
- Limit the screen time for an hour or two before going to bed. "TV is full spectrum light, and cell phones and computers emit a lot of blue light , which can reset our circadian rhythm and delay sleep onset," according to Dr. Cathy Goldstein, Michigan Medicine specialist.
- Avoid stressful mental pastimes before going to bed. This could mean turning off the TV or closing your book, depending on the content.
- Avoid alcohol for a few hours before going to bed. It's a sedative, it's true, but short-acting, which leaves you vulnerable to sudden awakening when alcohol takes effect fades.
- Regular exercise. As early as possible, rather than close to bedtime.
- Establish a routine that lets your brain know that sleep is coming soon. Set a regular bedtime, and if you are vulnerable to insomnia, set a regular wake-up time.
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