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Sleep and Dementia

Charlyn Fargo on

Many of us have had loved ones debilitated by dementia. My father-in-law suffered for eight years; my uncle had it as well. Many of us worry we might have it later in life. We know there are many things that can be done to help prevent it. The MIND diet, which is a blend of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less red meat (along with lower-sodium foods), has been found to help. In addition, physical activity is key. Now, you can add a good night's sleep to your routine.

You may not think sleep has anything to do with your memory or lack thereof, but a new study found that getting only six or fewer hours of sleep a night was associated with a 30% higher likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia nearly three decades later.

Researchers in Britain conducted an observational study using sleep data from surveys filled out six times by nearly 8,000 individuals between 1985 and 2016. By the end of the study, 521 people had been diagnosed with dementia at an average age of 77. Participants started the study when they were around age 50.

The tricky part is dementia is known to disrupt sleep patterns. So, was insufficient sleep a contributing cause or an effect of dementia? Researchers felt that by starting the study at age 50, it was less likely pre-dementia brain changes had begun.

Before you crawl into bed early, note that observational studies often lack sufficient data to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, meaning the study doesn't establish that better sleep prevents dementia. We all know that many factors can contribute to the development of dementia.

The bottom line is a good night's sleep is important. Adequate sleep along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity have all been associated with delaying the onset or slowing the progression of dementia. That's reason enough to make sure you get eight hours a night.

 

Q and A

Q: How much water do I need to drink?

A: For years, the answer was eight 8-ounce glasses a day. But research finds the correct amount is tied to your weight. New recommendations suggest you need to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For a 150-pound person, that means 75 ounces or just over nine 8-ounce glasses. Your water needs are also dependent on how hot it is outside and your activity level. Other liquids -- and foods such as watermelon and broth-based soups -- can count toward the total as well. Because everyone's fluid needs vary, the most important thing is to listen to your body and honor your thirst. A simple way to tell if you're getting enough water is to check the color of your pee. If it's pale yellow, like the color of lemonade, you're good. Anything darker and you probably need to drink another glass of water.

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