A bedside lamp shines on an empty bed, abandoned due to poor sleep.
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Make sleep your brain’s secret longevity weapon

Centr x Lifespan.io

Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io, a nonprofit leader in longevity science journalism and advocacy, to bring you the latest research on aging and rejuvenation. Learn more about our partnership below.

We’d tell you to consider this a wake up call, but it’s actually a call to go to bed and get some sleep.

Not just because good quality sleep is a bedrock of good health, but because new research has shown that poor sleep quality is a major risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

When Chris Hemsworth discovered he was at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease – a blood test while filming his Nat Geo series Limitless revealed he carried two copies of the APOE4 gene, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s 12-15 times – he set about building the habits that lower dementia risk.

And one of the most positive habits you can implement to reduce risk of dementia is to get some good shut eye.

Clouds roll across the evening sky, seen from above.

Worry keeping you awake? Try one of the most popular sleep visualizations on Centr – Relax & let go for free.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an age-related condition that leads to a deterioration of cognitive function in the brain. Typically, people with dementia will struggle with memory, thinking, orientation, learning, understanding language, calculation and judgment. This cognitive decline often has a negative impact on social behavior and emotional control.

It’s a rising problem. Worldwide, close to 50 million people currently live with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The World Health Organization expects that number will reach 139 million by 2050.

While many of us think about dementia as something that happens to “old people”, there are things we could be doing (at any age) to lower our risk and improve longevity.

What’s the link between dementia and sleep?

We already know that consistently bad sleep can have a negative effect on your well-being – it’s a well-known risk factor for chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The link between dementia and sleeping has previously been less clear.

Now, a study has now shown that getting enough high-quality sleep could halve the risk of developing dementia.

Researchers used data from an ongoing study of older adults in the US to study the sleep quality of more than 2800 people with an average age of 77. Following the participants for 5 years, they discovered that:

  • People who reported having less than 5 hours of sleep a night had double the risk of developing dementia than people who slept 7-8 hours a night.
  • People who took longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep had a 45 percent increased risk of developing dementia.
  • People who had less than 5 hours sleep a night, felt sleepy during the daytime and needed regular daytime naps experienced increased mortality.

Ingrid Clay lays on a workout mat with a blanket, sleeping for mind and muscle recovery.

Shhh… brain cleaning in progress.

What’s happening in your brain while you sleep?

Your brain has an inbuilt waste management system.

While you’re in deep sleep, it cleans itself out via the glymphatic system – a series of vessels that wash fluid through your brain, distributing essential molecules and removing waste build-up as it goes.

Among this waste are abnormal proteins known as amyloids, including amyloid beta which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid beta accumulates as you age, forming plaque on the brain that can interfere with the synapses. This is likely the major factor in the development of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

In a vicious cycle, amyloid plaques can also interfere with sleep quality – thereby increasing the buildup of plaques and further harming sleep. This feedback loop then leads to increasingly poor brain health and the probable onset of dementia.

An empty bed with tousled sheets; the owner's sleep has been disturbed.

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How can you sleep better and reduce risk?

The verdict is in: ensuring that you get enough quality sleep is an essential part of any worthwhile healthy longevity strategy.

While one bad night isn’t the end of the world, consistently good sleep can have a host of benefits.

So instead of picking up your phone and Googling “Chris Hemsworth Alzheimer’s” when you’re wide awake and worried in the middle of the night, take a leaf out of Chris’s book and start working on a healthy sleep routine.

Start with some of the most common factors that interrupt quality sleep:

  • Your room is too hot

  • There’s too much bright light

  • You’re consuming alcohol or caffeine too close to bedtime

  • You don’t have a sleep routine

  • Your sleep is regularly disturbed

Looking for more sleep love in your life?

Find out more on the science of sleep, and how to get more of the good stuff, with some further reading:

Disclaimer: This Centr content is adapted with permission from an article written by Lifespan.io. The content herein represents Centr’s interpretation of the original source material.

Centr x Lifespan.io

Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io to bring you the latest in longevity research. Lifespan.io is the leading source of industry news and a nonprofit advocacy foundation whose mission is to accelerate progress toward overcoming age-related diseases. Since 2014, the organization has focused on responsible journalism, high-impact advocacy, and media initiatives that make longevity research and education more accessible to all.

Centr x Lifespan.io

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