Improving Deep Sleep May Help Stave Off Dementia: Study

Improving Deep Sleep May Help Stave Off Dementia

A recent study suggests that losing slow-wave sleep as you get older may raise your risk of acquiring dementia.

A good night’s sleep is crucial for maintaining brain function and consolidating memories. A recent study emphasizes the significance of sleep for older people, revealing that deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, can prevent dementia if it is maintained or improved.

According to research published in JAMA Neurology, older people over 60 who experience even a 1% drop in deep sleep every year are 27 percent more likely to develop memory, reasoning, and decision-making impairments [1].

The third stage, or slow-wave sleep, lasts between twenty and forty minutes in a human sleep cycle of ninety minutes. In this state of maximum relaxation, blood pressure decreases, and heart rate and brain waves slow.

In addition to fortifying our immune systems, muscles, and bones, deep sleep primes our brains for increased information absorption. Research published in May 2023 found that people with brain abnormalities associated with Alzheimer’s performed better on memory tests when they had longer, slow-wave sleep [2].

Findings of the Recent Study

For the analysis, the research team monitored approximately 350 individuals with a median age of 69 who completed two overnight sleep examinations between 1995 and 1998 and 2001 and 2003. The interval between the two investigations was an average of five years. When the individuals underwent their second overnight sleeplessness examination, none had dementia.

In the subsequent 17 years of follow-up, the researchers noted 52 dementia cases. According to the findings, each percentage decrease in deep sleep per year was connected with a 27% rise in the chance of dementia and a 32% increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers state that because the study was observational, it was not intended to establish a causal relationship between the decreased slow-wave sleep and the increased risk of neurodegeneration.

The researchers also found that people with heart disease, those on sleep-impairing drugs (such as sedatives and antidepressants), and those with the APOE e4 gene were more likely to see a decrease in deep sleep.

Additionally, the researchers discovered that people with a higher hereditary risk of Alzheimer’s disease also exhibited the highest reductions in slow-wave sleep. Brain abnormalities in individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s could likely initiate a vicious cycle whereby the build-up of beta-amyloid hinders deep sleep as we age, weakening the brain even more.

Tips to Improve Your Sleep

Research indicates that sleep issues may be predisposing the brain to dementia, as they often worsen with age. Seniors should take the initiative to improve their sleep quality, as they are more likely to experience sleep problems. Even though sleeping medicines are used by many, they don’t always produce deep sleep and may even raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. There might be natural sleep aids that are longer-lasting, safer, and more effective [3].

  • Consider psychological techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which is currently the first-choice treatment for sleep issues, according to specialists. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) encourages individuals to replace stressful or negative thoughts with calming, positive ones before bed. To assist you in decluttering your mind of worrying thoughts before bed, try practicing meditation or seeing peaceful imagery.
  • Refrain from consuming coffee and other caffeinated drinks after 3 p.m. Stay away from alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Maintain proper sleeping habits. Aim to go to bed at the same hour every night to establish a regular sleep schedule. Keep the bed for sleeping rather than watching TV. After roughly twenty minutes, if you still can’t sleep, get out of bed and engage in something relaxing like reading, having a bath, or listening to music. However, avoid using computers, iPads, and e-readers right before bed since their light can disrupt our natural biological rhythms.

Improved sleep quality could be another strategy to help delay the onset of dementia as time goes on until the discovery of more efficient therapies or a cure for Alzheimer’s.


  1. Himali, J.J., Baril, A.A., Cavuoto, M.G., Yiallourou, S., Wiedner, C.D., Himali, D., DeCarli, C., Redline, S., Beiser, A.S., Seshadri, S. and Pase, M.P., 2023. Association between slow-wave sleep loss and incident dementia. JAMA neurology, 80(12), pp.1326-1333.
  2. Zavecz, Z., Shah, V.D., Murillo, O.G., Vallat, R., Mander, B.A., Winer, J.R., Jagust, W.J. and Walker, M.P., 2023. NREM sleep as a novel protective cognitive reserve factor in the face of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. BMC medicine, 21(1), pp.1-12.
  3. What Level of Sleep is Better for Brain Health? Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Published Online: 15th November, 2023. Accessed: 12th January, 2024.
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  5. One Stage of Sleep Seems to Be Critical For Reducing The Risk of Dementia. Science Alert. Published Online: 21st November, 2023. Accessed: 12th January, 2024.

What Should You Know About Menopause And Dementia Risk

Menopause And Dementia Risk

Approximately 6 million people 65 and older in the United States have Alzheimer’s [1]. The fact that women make up nearly two-thirds of them has long been a source of puzzlement for scientists, who have long linked the difference to factors like heredity and longer life expectancies [2]. However, there is increasing agreement that menopause may also be a significant risk factor for dementia later in life.

Women who enter the life phase—clinically described as the point at which fertility ends—experience numerous changes in their brains in addition to their ovaries. The majority of women adapt to these changes without experiencing long-term health problems, but in the decades that follow, 20% of them will develop dementia [3].

Is There any Link Between Menopause and Dementia

The areas of the female brain that regulate mood, memory, sleep, and body temperature are especially abundant in estrogen receptors, and these areas function optimally when levels of estrogen are stable and high. Estrogen is also essential for the brain’s ability to protect itself from aging and damage [4].

The distinctive reduction in estrogen during menopause impacts the functioning of specific brain regions and is believed to change the brain structure. Scans reveal decreased brain volume in menopausal women compared to the brains of men of the same age and pre-menopausal women [5].

These brain changes may be the cause of some menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and a mild, generally transitory loss in memory and cognition.

They also bear similarities to pre-dementia brain alterations. Although the exact relationship between the two is unclear, several brain regions affected by menopause are also affected by Alzheimer’s.

Research has also linked menopause symptoms, including insomnia and hot flashes, to dementia. A study published in 2022 discovered that hot flashes were associated with an increase in the number of tiny lesions in the brain, which are a sign of declining brain health, according to Dr. Pauline Maki, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Women’s Mental Health Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago and co-author of the study [6]. A more recent study found that hot flashes during sleep were linked to a rise in blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, which act as early warning signs of the condition [7].

Although the findings of this research may seem concerning, most women’s brains and cognitive abilities stabilize after menopause.

Beyond that, there are other actions you may take to support your well-being and mental capacity despite decreasing estrogen.

How can you protect your brain?

According to experts, three factors, in particular, are likely to have the most significant effect on women going through menopause since they address both the immediate symptoms and the long-term risk of dementia.

1. Hormone Therapy on Time

For many years, scientists were worried that hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms would raise an older woman’s risk of dementia. However, more recent research looks more thoroughly at the therapy’s timing and paints a more complex picture. According to one such study that examined the results of over 50 studies, hormone therapy initiated around the time menopausal symptoms appeared was connected with a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia [8].

Other studies have revealed that hormone therapy does not affect dementia or Alzheimer’s risk but is successful at treating hot flashes and night sweats while also increasing quality of life, all of which are critical predictors of brain health [9][10].

2. Regular Exercise

Women are more likely than men to develop neurodegenerative disorders as a result of physical inactivity [11].

A 2018 study that tracked over 200 middle-aged women for 44 years discovered that the higher their fitness level at the beginning of the study, the lower their risk of acquiring dementia later in life [12]. Middle-aged women who were physically active showed fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in their brain scans than their inactive peers.

3. Healthy Diet

Recent studies have revealed a link between a lower incidence of dementia in both men and women with specific diets, such as the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet, which focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

These plant-rich diets may also offer some additional advantages to women. According to a preliminary study, eating a diet high in plants can support specific gut bacteria that may help balance the body’s estrogen levels [13].


  1. Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Association. Accessed: 11th January, 2024.
  2. Rajan, K.B., Weuve, J., Barnes, L.L., McAninch, E.A., Wilson, R.S. and Evans, D.A., 2021. Population estimate of people with clinical Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment in the United States (2020–2060). Alzheimer’s & dementia, 17(12), pp.1966-1975.
  3. Chêne, G., Beiser, A., Au, R., Preis, S.R., Wolf, P.A., Dufouil, C. and Seshadri, S., 2015. Gender and incidence of dementia in the Framingham Heart Study from mid-adult life. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 11(3), pp.310-320.
  4. Spence, R.D., Hamby, M.E., Umeda, E., Itoh, N., Du, S., Wisdom, A.J., Cao, Y., Bondar, G., Lam, J., Ao, Y. and Sandoval, F., 2011. Neuroprotection mediated through estrogen receptor-α in astrocytes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(21), pp.8867-8872.
  5. Than, S., Moran, C., Beare, R., Vincent, A.J., Collyer, T.A., Wang, W., Callisaya, M.L., Thomson, R., Phan, T.G., Fornito, A. and Srikanth, V.K., 2021. Interactions between age, sex, menopause, and brain structure at midlife: a UK Biobank study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 106(2), pp.410-420.
  6. Thurston, R.C., Wu, M., Chang, Y.F., Aizenstein, H.J., Derby, C.A., Barinas-Mitchell, E.A. and Maki, P., 2023. Menopausal vasomotor symptoms and white matter hyperintensities in midlife women. Neurology, 100(2), pp.e133-e141.
  7. Thurston, R.C., Maki, P., Chang, Y., Wu, M., Aizenstein, H.J., Derby, C.A. and Karikari, T.K., 2023. Menopausal vasomotor symptoms and plasma Alzheimer disease biomarkers. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  8. Nerattini, M., Jett, S., Andy, C., Carlton, C., Zarate, C., Boneu, C., Battista, M., Pahlajani, S., Loeb-Zeitlin, S., Havryulik, Y. and Williams, S., 2023. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of menopause hormone therapy on risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 15, p.1260427.
  9. Henderson, V.W., St. John, J.A., Hodis, H.N., McCleary, C.A., Stanczyk, F.Z., Shoupe, D., Kono, N., Dustin, L., Allayee, H. and Mack, W.J., 2016. Cognitive effects of estradiol after menopause: a randomized trial of the timing hypothesis. Neurology, 87(7), pp.699-708.
  10. Faubion, S.S., Crandall, C.J., Davis, L., El Khoudary, S.R., Hodis, H.N., Lobo, R.A., Maki, P.M., Manson, J.E., Pinkerton, J.V., Santoro, N.F. and Shifren, J.L., 2022. The 2022 hormone therapy position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 29(7), pp.767-794.
  11. Nianogo, R.A., Rosenwohl-Mack, A., Yaffe, K., Carrasco, A., Hoffmann, C.M. and Barnes, D.E., 2022. Risk factors associated with Alzheimer disease and related dementias by sex and race and ethnicity in the US. JAMA neurology, 79(6), pp.584-591.
  12. Hörder, H., Johansson, L., Guo, X., Grimby, G., Kern, S., Östling, S. and Skoog, I., 2018. Midlife cardiovascular fitness and dementia: a 44-year longitudinal population study in women. Neurology, 90(15), pp.e1298-e1305.
  13. Baker, J.M., Al-Nakkash, L. and Herbst-Kralovetz, M.M., 2017. Estrogen–gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas, 103, pp.45-53.
  14. Gupta, A.H., How Menopause Changes the Brain. The New York Times. Published Online: 21st November, 2023. Accessed: 11th January, 2024.

A Study Links Hidden Belly Fat in Midlife to Alzheimer’s

A Study Links Hidden Belly Fat in Midlife to Alzheimer’s

Researchers from the Radiological Society of North America have connected a specific kind of body fat to the development of Alzheimer’s. There is a correlation between increased amounts of proteins that disrupt brain function and visceral fat in the belly. According to researchers, methods for evaluating visceral fat may help identify Alzheimer’s early on.

There may be an increased risk of Alzheimer’s in middle-aged persons who have a specific kind of fat around their internal organs in their bellies.

Researchers examined visceral fat, a specific fat type that accounts for a tiny percentage of a person’s body mass but is critically situated in the abdominal cavity, close to numerous vital organs. Due to its external imperceptibility, visceral fat is also called hidden fat.

Such fat deposits may cause alterations in the brain related to Alzheimer’s as early as age 50 and up to 15 years before the neurological disease’s symptoms manifest, according to research presented at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting [1].

The results are yet to be peer-reviewed.

The Research Details: Hidden Fat and Brain

In the study, the research team attempted to identify connections between amyloid and tau proteins (which disrupt neural communication) and high body mass index (BMI) scores, obesity, insulin resistance, and fatty abdominal tissue in middle-aged people who showed no signs of cognitive problems [2].

Researchers examined data from 54 people, ages 40 to 60, in order to carry out the study. With an average body mass index (BMI) of 32, all of the subjects were clinically obese but in good cognitive health. The team measured the quantity of visceral and subcutaneous fat (the more prevalent form of fat located beneath the skin) in the abdominal cavity by taking pictures with MRI scans.

The researchers also obtained MRI brain images to investigate any connections between brain volume and visceral fat. The thickness of the cortex, which regulates critical processes including language, thinking, and memory, is of particular significance.

As Alzheimer’s advances, it is known to damage neurons and their connections in the brain’s cortex, leading to the loss of volume or “shrinking.”

The scientists also employed a variety of other pertinent tests that might reveal alterations in the brain or biomarkers for inflammation and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, such as insulin resistance tests for glucose tolerance and PET scans that target tau tangles and amyloid plaques, the hallmarks of the disease.

According to a previous study by Dr. Mahsa Dolatshahi, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the team, a higher visceral to subcutaneous fat ratio in the belly was associated with a higher presence of amyloids in the precuneus cortex, a brain region known to be affected early by amyloid pathology in Alzheimer’s [3].

The Connection of the Fat and Brain Inflammation

PET scans revealed higher concentrations of tau and amyloid proteins in the brains of participants with larger ratios of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat. A higher visceral fat proportion has also been linked to increased inflammation, which is another Alzheimer’s risk factor.

Dr. Dolatshahi stated that inflammatory secretions of visceral fat may cause inflammation in the brain, which is one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s.

According to Dr. Cyrus A. Raji, MD, PhD, an Associate Professor of Radiology and Neurology and Director of Neuromagnetic Resonance Imaging at the Washington University School of Medicine, although other studies have associated BMI with brain atrophy or even a higher dementia risk, no previous research has linked a particular kind of fat to the actual abnormal Alzheimer’s protein in cognitively normal people up to 25 years before they show the first symptoms of the disease.

How this study may aid in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

According to researchers, the results may help identify Alzheimer’s disease early in a population that is at risk. The research not only contributes to our understanding of one of the biochemical processes associated with Alzheimer’s, but it also supports the crucial idea that some of these risk factors are modifiable and discoverable early in life.

Dr. Raji stated that by going beyond BMI to better characterize the structural distribution of body fat on MRI, we now have a significantly better knowledge of why this factor may raise Alzheimer’s risk.

He further stated that these first results have them thrilled, and they anticipate further research and cooperation in this field with an emphasis on brain health. The image of how different bodily parts relate to brain health is changing, and researchers are eager to investigate any potential processes that may exist between these entities.


  1. Radiological Society of North America. RSNA. Accessed: 5th January, 2024.
  2. Hidden Belly Fat in Midlife Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. RSNA Radiological Society of North America. RSNA Press Release. Released: 20th November, 2023. Accessed: 5th January, 2024.
  3. Dolatshahi, M., Commean, P.K., Rahmani, F., Liu, J., Lloyd, L., Nguyen, C., Hantler, N., Ly, M., Yu, G., Ippolito, J.E. and Sirlin, C., 2023. Alzheimer Disease Pathology and Neurodegeneration in Midlife Obesity: A Pilot Study. Aging and Disease.
  4. Hidden Belly Fat in Midlife Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Medical News Today. Published Online: 20th November, 2023. Accessed: 5th Janray, 2024.
  5. This Type of Hidden Belly Fat Linked to Higher Alzheimer’s Disease Risk. Healthline. Published Online: 20th November, 2023. Accessed: 5th Janray, 2024.