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.
  4. Improving Deep Sleep May Protect Against Dementia. Everyday Health. Published Online: 31st October, 2023. Accessed: 12th January, 2024.
  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.
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