Is it Essential to Get a Good Night’s Sleep If You Want a Memory, You Can Keep?

Is it Essential to Get a Good Night’s Sleep If You Want a Memory, You Can Keep?


As the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease increased worldwide to 47 million in 2020 and 6.4 million in the United States alone, at the cost of 604 billion dollars per year, research continues to discover the cause and find a cure. The estimated total healthcare costs for treating Alzheimer’s disease in the US are estimated at $305 billion, with the price expected to increase to more than $1 trillion as the population ages.


Over the last decade, many sleep studies have been conducted on 55–65-year-olds to ascertain what importance a good night’s sleep has in lowering the risk of getting dementia in later life. One such study done in conjunction with Inserm, France and the University College of London, England, found that people in their 50s and 60s getting six hours of sleep or less were at greater risk of developing dementia later in life.


Alzheimer’s disease, the most well-known form of dementia, and many seniors fear getting as they grow older, is caused by amyloid-beta (Abeta). This metabolic waste product is found in between brain cells. Abeta spikes during our waking hours and can cause a plaque that damages neurons in the brain and leads to memory loss.


Along with brain exercise, eating foods high in antioxidants, physical activity, staying hydrated, and socialization, sleep is now being observed to see what effect it has on lowering the accumulation of beta amyloids. Research done by Boston University showed that while we are asleep, a cleansing action takes place in the brain and flushes out Abeta, preventing them from forming the plaque that causes Alzheimer’s disease.


An article published in the NIH Research Matters remarks on a study of 20 healthy people ages 22 – 77 where researchers scanned participants’ brains after getting a whole night’s rest and after a night of sleep deprivation (about 31 hours without sleep). Abeta increased approximately 5% in the participants’ brains after losing a night of sleep. These changes occurred in brain regions that included the thalamus and hippocampus, which are especially vulnerable to damage in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. These studies also found that participants with more significant increases in beta-amyloid reported worse moods after sleep deprivation. These findings support other studies that have found that the hippocampus and thalamus play a role in mood disorders (Shokri-Kojori 2018).


Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each day, hours that are not broken up between nighttime sleep and daytime naps; one must have consecutive hours of sleep. Although there is still more research needed on sleep deprivation and its connection to dementia, the findings thus far show that a good night’s sleep may be another factor in warding off dementia.


Some studies also showed how sleeping more than 7 to 9 hours as an adult can also adversely impact the brain and increase the risk of getting dementia in later life.

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

Thomas Dekker, American Actor

Cathy Parkinson CQSW, DipCouns.

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