How Sleep Can Affect The Onset Of Dementia

It's no secret how important sleep is for our health. Getting enough sleep at night affects our mental and physical health in many ways. "Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep," Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, told Health. "If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It's pretty clear."

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, all adults should be getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. Adults who sleep less than that are at a higher risk of negative health effects. One of those negative health effects may be an increased risk of dementia, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Nature. The study found a correlation between people who got six hours or less of sleep each night consistently in their adult years with a 30% increased risk of developing dementia in their old age. While this doesn't prove that sleeping less causes dementia, it is another reminder to get enough sleep at night.

When we sleep, our bodies and brains have a chance to recharge after working all day. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night (via Verywell Health). Getting plenty of sleep can help you reduce your stress levels, regulate your metabolism, and keep your heart healthy. Other health benefits of sleep include reduced inflammation in the body, better balance, and improved memory.

Potential causes of dementia

Dementia is a term used to describe various symptoms of cognitive decline rather than a specific condition (via WebMD). Dementia has many potential causes, including degenerative neurological diseases, vascular disorders, tumors, and other risk factors like not getting enough sleep. According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 60 to 80% of all dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is caused by abnormal deposits of protein in the brain that destroy cells in charge of memory and mental function. No one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer's disease, although the buildup of two abnormal structures in the brain called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are commonly seen in people with the disease (National Institute on Aging). There is no cure for Alzheimer's.

Vascular dementia is another health issue that causes dementia. The brain requires oxygen from the bloodstream for the cells to function properly. Brain cells will die if oxygen flow is limited or interrupted for a long period of time (via Alzheimer's Society). This can happen after one or more strokes, which interrupts blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia is often related to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Symptoms include confusion and difficulty problem-solving. Lewy body dementia, which refers to abnormal clumps of protein that can be found in the brain's cortex, is another potential cause (via National Institute on Aging). The symptoms of these conditions can be treated with certain medications and lifestyle changes.