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Healthbeat 4: Sleep and dementia

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A solid and complete night's sleep can be more elusive as we age. New evidence shows how important sleep truly is. It's not just to look fresh and feel good, but to keep your brain healthy.

If you don't get enough sleep in your 50s and 60s, you could be more likely to develop dementia later in life. It's nightmarish news from a study in Nature Communications.

Researchers followed 8,000 people in Britain for 25 years, starting at the age of 50. Those who slept six hours or less a night increased their risk for dementia by 30%, compared to those who got seven hours or more of shut-eye.

Dr. Azizi Seixas, a sleep expert at NYU Langone Health, says it is a critical health behavior that you must take into consideration as you are aging.

Dr. Seixas says sleep helps clear the brain of the plaques associated with Alzheimer's.

So does this mean if we sleep six hours or less we're going to get dementia? Dr. Seixas says it increases your risk significantly.

"And so people should take this finding, as a public awareness warning," said Dr. Seixas.

Author Terry Brennan has dealt with sleep apnea for decades. Both of his parents suffered from dementia.

"If there's anything I can do to make sure that I'm not going to get dementia, I'm going to work at it," said Brennan.

To make sure you get those crucial seven hours or more, Dr. Seixas says you should treat sleep as an investment.

Relax before you got to bed. Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before bedtime. Also, turn off your devices to turn off your mind and rest.

NBC News

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