Does sleep impact my dementia risk?

A good night’s sleep is one of those things that provides a wonderful feeling of rejuvenation, wellbeing, and energy. Unfortunately, for many people, a good night’s sleep is elusive. Sleep insufficiency can make us feel exhausted and lacking in energy, we can have poor concentration, attention span and memory, we may be uncoordinated in our movements, irritability may be exacerbated, and our emotions may not be stable. All these effects may cause us to feel unwell and to struggle with daily life, but is there a lasting or ongoing effect from sleep insufficiency?  
 
Recent studies have highlighted that poor sleep quality, including periods less than 6 hours per night, and changes in sleep habits, are associated with a higher risk of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia. They note that sleep has a restorative function, especially for cognitive domains such as memory, attention, mood, and behaviour. It also has a protective function, such as assisting in the removal of metabolic waste from the fluid around cells in the brain, including abnormal forms of proteins implicated in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Any sleep imbalance could, therefore, contribute to neurodegeneration and the exacerbation of neural cell damage and dysfunction which may contribute to, or hasten, the cognitive changes observed in dementia.
   
Overall, it appears that the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep far outweigh the consequences of getting too little sleep. For some people too little sleep is a choice we make due to lifestyle, work or social expectations, for others sleep disturbances are due to health issues or the need to care for somebody else. If you are getting insufficient sleep, perhaps it is a good time to take action to alleviate the problem and take care of your brain health. If you need some guidance, speak to your General Practitioner, or do some research yourself. The Sleep Health Foundation  may be a good place to start so you can take positive action to assist in reducing your risk of dementia in the future. 
 
This article was contributed by the ISLAND Project – the University of Tasmania’s dementia prevention study - https://island.mooc.utas.edu.au/
 
 
 
Victoria State Government, Better Health Channel. (2020). Sleep Deprivation. Retrieved 
from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-deprivation  
 
Ward, SA & Pase, MP. (2020). Advances in pathophysiology and neuroimaging: 
Implications for sleep and dementia. Respirology 25, pp 580 – 592 
 
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