Quality of sleep can affect your risk of dementia

Whether it’s the urge to pee… or pangs of arthritis or anxiety that never seem to take a rest… it becomes harder to get a good night’s sleep long enough to get fully rested as we get older.

In fact, half of people over the age of 60 toss and turn during the wee hours. And if you’re one of them, you need to hear about the latest research.

Because a new study shows that not getting enough of one sleep phase in particular, known as REM (“rapid eye movement”) sleep, can heighten your risk of developing dementia.

And in the study published in the journal Neurology, that the participants who had significantly less REM sleep than others during the initial sleep study went on to develop dementia.

The researchers analyzed a dozen years’ worth of data of over 300 adults who were at least 60 years old and who’d participated in sleep studies and determined that the subset of people who developed dementia spent only 17 per cent of their sleep time in REM, compared to an average of 20 per cent for the people who didn’t develop this neurodegenerative disease.

And with every 1 per cent drop in the amount of REM sleep, the risk of dementia increased by 9 per cent!

Numbers can get a little tricky here, but let me put it to you this way: When talking about what percentage of time you spend in any particular sleep phase, this study shows that just 15 minutes a night can make the difference between developing dementia and not developing dementia.

Now, since this was an observational study looking at data that already existed, it doesn’t prove that not getting enough REM sleep actually cause dementia. But it’s no surprise to me that there would be a correlation between the two.

But since REM sleep is thought to play a role in storing memories, learning, and balancing your mood, it stands to reason that not getting enough of it can – over time – contribute to the kind of memory loss, confusion, and irritability we see with dementia.

So, how do you know if you’re getting enough REM without signing up for one of those sleep studies yourself?

Well, that’s the sleep phase when dreams occur – so if you wake up remembering any dreams, you’re getting at least some REM sleep.

But if you’re waking up more frequently than every 90 minutes, you may not be getting the REM sleep you need, as it takes your body about an hour and a half to cycle through the first three sleep phases that come before REM.

And every time you wake up, your body has to start back at square one when it falls back to sleep.

So, if your dream time is getting short shrift, don’t reach for over-the-counter sleep drugs – because most sleep aids actually suppress REM sleep, as do antidepressants and alcohol.

Instead, try some natural ways to drift off to dreamland. Previous studies have shown that taking supplements like 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can increase the amount of REM sleep you get.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Editor
Nutrition & Healing
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Sources:

Lack of REM Sleep Boosts Dementia Risk, newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/sleep-loss-rem-dementia/2017/08/30/id/810720/

Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community, neurology.org/content/early/2017/08/23/WNL.0000000000004373

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