Is Lack of Sleep Linked to Dementia?

September 23, 2021 in Self-Care
by Dr. Jeanne Peterson

A new study, published this year in the journal Nature, shows an association between shorter sleep hours and the later development of dementia. Severine Sabia and colleagues looked at data from 7959 participants, using a 25-year follow-up. They discovered that those who consistently slept six hours or less at age 50 and 60 (compared with a seven-hour duration) had a 30% higher risk of developing dementia. This finding held strong even when other influences such as sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometric, and mental health factors were considered. Since previous studies have shown an association between depression, sleep and subsequent dementia onset, this study provides good information about the role of sleep duration regardless of mental health and suggests that short sleep duration in midlife is associated with an increased risk of late-onset dementia.

If you are regularly missing out on needed sleep, you may be putting yourself at risk. So what can you do to lay a strong foundation for yourself of good sleep? Practicing good sleep hygiene is both important and relatively easy and inexpensive to do. Here are a few steps you can follow to improve your sleep habits:

-Maintain a regular sleep routine – choose the same time each night to go to bed and
roughly the same time each morning to awake.

-Develop a wide-down routine of about 20-30 minutes before bedtime. This might
include relaxing, enjoying some light stretches, light (or boring!) reading as you let your
mind and body prepare for sleep. If you have just created a TO DO list and begun
stressing about when you’ll get it done, it will be harder for your mind and body to
switch gears and relax.

-Unless your job requires it, avoid daytime naps. Make sure your body needs the rest at

-Associate your bedroom with sleep and calm. Try to avoid distractions such as a TV or
radio playing, as well as stressful activities like work projects or paying bills, and
energizing activities such as fighting or vigorous exercise. Make both the bedroom and
the time of night calm.

-Avoid all blue light activities as the blue light can activate the parts of your brain that
signal waking. Avoid watching TV, using the computer, or reading electronically in bed.

-Avoid substances that interfere with sleep, including drugs and alcohol. Drink caffeinated
drinks judiciously; avoid them in the afternoon and evening.

If you know that falling asleep or staying asleep is a problem for you, take action to improve it right away. Please protect your long-term wellbeing by asking your clinician for individualized help in improving your sleep habits.
To read the study in Nature go to

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