Watch the Webinar “My Life, My Goals”, by Professor Linda Clare

In March 2022, DAI hosted a webinar “My Life, My Goals”, which is a practical self-help guide created by people with dementia. In this presentation researcher Linda Clare, who is Professor of Clinical Psychology of Ageing and Dementia at the University of Exeter described the research that led to its creation.

My Life, My Goals was created as part of the GREAT project. Researchers developed and tested an approach called cognitive rehabilitation. It is a way of helping people with dementia to manage their daily activities and stay as independent as possible. One of our current board members, Emily Ong was part of this project, and also talked about her involvement on the day.

Since you’re here… … we’re asking viewers like you to support our members, by donating to our organization. With more than 57 million people living with dementia, and the Coronavirus pandemic causing everyone to operate in a virtual world, our work has never been more important.

Donating or partnering with us will make a difference to the lives of people with dementia.

Membership of, and services provided by Dementia Alliance International is FREE, and open to anyone with a diagnosis of any type of dementia.

If you live with a diagnosis of dementia, join DAI for free here…  

Subscribe to our newsletters and regular blogs.

About DAI: Dementia Alliance International (DAI is a non-profit group of people with dementia from around the world seeking to represent, support, and educate others living with the disease that it is possible to live more positively than advised with dementia. It is an organization that promotes a unified voice of strength, advocacy and support in the fight for individual autonomy, improved quality of life, and for the human and legal rights of all with dementia and their families.

New article: Reparations for Harms Experienced in Residential Aged Care

Dementia Alliance International is a project partner to an important research project, Exploring the need for redress of violence, abuse and neglect of people living with dementia in residential aged care in Australia, being lead by chief investigtor, Associate Professor Linda Steele from the University of Technology, and associate investigator Kate Swaffer, a co founder of DAI and an independent researcher.

Two members of DAI also sit on the Advisory Group for this project, Cheryl Day and Lynnette Rogers  who herself lives in residential care. The advisory group members also consist of care partners and family or other informal advocates, and professional advocates and lawyers.

The project is an important step towards realising the human rights of people living with dementia in residential aged care, where in Australia, 20 formal enquiries and a 2.5 year Royal Commission into Aged Care in Australia have consistently proven people are beign abused, violated and neglected in residential care.

Last week, their first journal article was published as part of this project, which you can read in full by clicking on the link below.

Reparations for Harms Experienced in Residential Aged Care

By Dementia Justice researchers Linda Steele and Kate Swaffer

They will also be sharing their findings with the Australian Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, as it is critical that people with dementia – who are also people living with acquired cognitive and multiple other disabilities – are not left behind.

This could be you one day, so if you are not already involved, it is not too late, and you can sign up for stage two of the project and join our Roundtable Discussions.

Send your details to Linda by completeing the form here –  https://www.dementiajustice.org/get-involved – or by emailing Linda at [email protected]

This project is funded by Dementia Australia.

Strong DAI presence at the ADI 35th Conference in London

At the 35th Global Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) held in London on 9-11 June 2022, Dementia Alliance International had a significant presence of its members who participated in this hybrid format either in-person, virtual or on-demand (refer to earlier DAI blog). There were several highlights during this year’s conference, as we outline below.

The DAI Environmental Design Special Interest Group (ED-SiG) hosted its first virtual symposium on the importance of co-design and how technology can enable participation; examine assumptions held by environmental designers. Prior to this conference, DAI has always hosted a workshop at the ADI conference, focused more specifically on the voices of people with dementia and their care partners, as well as the topic of ‘Diagnosed with Dementia: What’s next”, with insights from people living with dementia themselves, on how the diagnosis and services provided could be improved.

DAI held its very first a virtual event as a Master Class on this topic during World Alzheimer’s Month in 2014.

Helen Rochford-Brennan gave the Opening keynote speaker address; Helen is the Vice Chair of the Irish Dementia Working Group, a past Chair of the European Workign Group of People with Dementia, and a DAI member. Five current DAI Board members were speakers, symposium panelists, or fire chat presenters at the conference – Alister Robertson (Chair), Diana Blackwelder (representing a university where she is also working as a researcher), Bill Yeates, Emily Ong, and Julie Hayden.  Four past board members were also speakers – DAI co-founder Kate Swaffer was a keynote speaker and also gave a virtual presentation on the impact of the covid pandemic on people with dementia, Helga Rohra was a panelist at the ED-SiG Symposium, and Christine Thelker and Howard Gordon gave virtual or in person presentations.

Members of the DAI family from different countries who were speakers at the conference, including Natalie Ive (Australia) and Tomofumi Tanno (Japan), representing their respective dementia associations. Others, such as long time DAI member and advocate, Dr Jennifer Bute had poster presentations.

The DAI ED-SiG symposium is unique and different because it is the first in the history of DAI symposiums where the speakers were dementia advocates and professionals calling for co-designs with persons with dementia. Kate Swaffer chaired the symposium with distinguished speakers including dementia self-advocate Helga Rohra (a past DAI Board member) and researchers, Jacki Liddle, Lesley Palmer and Saskia Kuliga. The other remarkable achievement was the shift of voice from the 2015 ADI Conference, where Emeritus Professor Richard Fleming, architect Kirsty Bennett, and interior designer Debbie de Fiddes called for enabling design for people with dementia to inclusion of voice of persons with dementia. It showed the positive progress that DAI has made over the years in advocating for the voice, inclusion, and rights of persons with dementia.

At the conference, we have DAI members who took to the stage at the ADI Conference to present their respective papers for the first time – Emily Ong (Singapore), William Yeates and Natalie Ive (Australia). DAI is proud of its new advocates who are charting new heights in their advocacy work. Each of their papers focused on how they continue to live a positive and enabling life despite dementia by having a positive attitude, and with non pharmacological interventions, and support. It echoed the DAI mission – model living positively and beyond the diagnosis of dementia to other people with dementia and the wider community, and what living with purpose with dementia looks like.

DAI works indirectly with national dementia organizations or local Dementia Working Groups through its global members, who are also members of other organizations. For example, Julie Hyden, also an active member of the 3NDWG, is involved with webinars design for their local working group.

Since the keynote address – Enabling and Empowering People with Dementia as Viewed from the Inside Out, delivered by the late Richard Taylor (United States), one of the founding members of DAI at the 24th Conference of ADI 2009, the voice of people with dementia has been growing stronger with each successive ADI conference.

DAI started participating in the ADI Conference in Puerto Rico 2014 at the 29th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International with a DAI booth and four co founders of DAI as speakers; the late Dr Richard Taylor, Kate Swaffer, Janet Ford (nee Pitts), John Sandblom and Susan Stephen and a number of other DAI members living with dementia. Among the topics presented that  year were the value of the DAI online peer to peer support groups, living beyond the stigma of dementia, non-pharmacological interventions, and the Prescribed Disengagement. We also held a panel session with members talking about their experience of living with dementia.

At the 31st International Conference of ADI Budepest 2016, Prof. Peter Mittler, the Human Rights Advisor of DAI at that time, delivered his keynote address – Nothing About Us Without All of Us. Kate Swaffer, Peter Mittler and Glenn Rees spoke at the workshop on Human rights and dementia: How to use the human rights agenda, a strategy supported by the ADI Board in partnership with DAI.

Over the years, DAI has grown its presence in the international conference of ADI as one strong voice to urge the government, private sector, and medical professionals to listen to the concerns of people with dementia and take action to address this urgent global crisis.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world – indeed it is the only thing that ever does.” – Margaret Meade.

Author: Emily Ong

The World Alzheimer Report 2022 survey closes June 20

Information via Alzheimer’s Disease International:

“We just wanted to send you a brief reminder that the extended deadline for our World Alzheimer Report 2022 survey ends this Monday 20 June.

As you are likely to already know, we are asking to hear from people living with dementia, informal carers and healthcare professionals around their experience of post-diagnosis. If this applies to you or anyone you may know, including family members, friends, community members or professional networks, we please ask that you share this email or the relevant survey links with them.

Every response we receive plays an important role in better understanding the global experience of post-diagnosis and will help us in aiming to improve care and support for millions.

Each survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and is available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) and Arabic. To change the survey to your preferred language, select from the options of languages in the right-hand corner of the survey.

Take the survey for people living with dementia Take the survey for carers Take the survey for clinician and healthcare practitioners

Congratulations Emily Ong

The DAI Board of Directors and DAI membership wishes to congratulate Ms. Emily Ong  from Singapore on her election to the board of Alzheimer’s Disease International. 

There were many nominations for this position than in past years, from multiple countries, so it is exciting to know the voices of people with the lived experience of dementia is growing. The election took place at the ADI Council meeting on Wednesday 8 June, the day before the ADI conference commenced, with Emily winning the vote, and Mrs. Helen Rochford-Brennan being a close second.

We therefore also congratulate Helen, and the other nominees, as we  know they will still continue with their advocacy.

Emily will not only represent DAI members well, but with her multicultural background, and focus on low and middle income countries, will serve the global dementia community.

We also congratulate our co-founder and Human Rights Advisor Kate Swaffer, who stepped down from the ADI board this week, having served ADI on their board as an elected member since 2016, having fulfilled the full two terms allowed, thereby vacating the position on the ADI board for a person living with dementia.

Check out the past, and upcoming ADI Conference sessions which include people living with dementia here, as you will see some of your friends. 

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Dementia Through the Eyes of a Doctor With Dementia

Thanks to DAI member Rose Ong from Canada for this blog about what it was like as a medical doctor, for Dr Kazuo Hasegawa to be diagnosed himself, with dementia.

A Look at Dementia Through the Eyes of a Doctor With Dementia

Photo source: AAJ, Dr Kazuo Hasegawa presenting at the ADI 2017 conference in Kyoto

Dr. Kazuo Hasegawa was 90 years old when interviewed on Japan’s NHK Documentary television channel in February 2020. He has been a psychiatrist for most of his life, specializing in dementias.

In 1974-75, he was instrumental in developing Japan’s version of the now well known Mini Mental Symptoms Exam or MMSE, primarily developed for psychiatric patients, but later used to assess the level of Mild Cognitive Impairment by physicians around the world.

Dr Hasegawa was also on the ADI Conference Scientific Programme Committee in 2017, when they co-hosted their conference with Alzheimer’s Japan. This video was his message to AAJ members for their annual conference in 2021. He said, “Live your own life with positive intent and build a future.

But it was in his 50’s that his focus changed from psychiatry to dementia specifically when a patient and friend of his touched his heart; in his words,

“..I had one patient I’ll never forget. That person had some music paper for writing notations. (On it) he wrote the following message:

         ‘Where has the excitement of my life gone?’

It was a very sad cry from the heart. I’ve always kept that deep in my mind. That day, I pledged to devote my career to doing research, providing care, whatever (was needed), to deal with dementia.”

Dr. Hasegawa’s patient was 50 years old when diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia. His wife shared with NHK another script he wrote on notation paper:

I have no melodies in me, no harmonies, no resonance; I want my heart back. The source of all my feelings. Please come back again. That beautiful throb of excitement may never be mine again.”

Little did Dr. Hasegawa realize that after years of study, decades of speaking at conferences, he would become one of the patients he was determined to help.

He was later diagnosed with a rare and very slow developing dementia, Argyrophilic Grain Disease, defined as:  (AGD)is a sporadic, very late-onset tauopathy, accounting for approximately 4–13% of neurodegenerative dementias. AGD may manifest with a range of symptoms such as cognitive decline and behavioral abnormalities.

He did continue to do research on his good days. Because he was one of Japan’s leading Dementia Authorities, his family would assist his transportation to conferences where he continued to speak as a valued member of the medical community, well into his own diagnosis.

Dr. Hasegawa, like all of us, was gripped by anxiety when he was diagnosed with AGD, because of the scores of people he had treated over the years.

“I thought, ‘I’m finished. I’m hopeless. Will I become incapable of doing anything?’ I felt more and more alone.

Now that I have dementia, I realize, I have to stop trying to ease my patients’ fear with shallow platitudes. I never thought it would be so hard.”

The Wall Street Journal stated that Dr. Hasegawa had imagined the minds of dementia patients were in a permanent state of fogginess, but as a patient, he experienced swings in his mental fitness.

In the morning, his brain was “shining and normal”.

But by early afternoon his memory was fading, and by dinner time, “I became like a real dementia patient.” He advised his caregivers to attend to his needs in the morning while he was lucid and more alert.

He started to keep a journal of all the things he was forgetting. It was as if he needed to double check everything all the time. He realized with certainty that he was deteriorating.

The idea of living life with certainty; that certainty is part of life, has declined.”

Always promoting and advocating for daycare programs, he was very lonely when he participated in them himself. He was quiet and never smiled, overcome with the grief of missing his wife and daughter. Eventually, he stopped attending.

When asked “What is dementia?” he said,

The superfluous things are scrapped away when you have dementia. It works very efficiently. There’s cause for concern, but you don’t notice it. This is one salvation God has prepared for us all.”

When asked how his ‘landscape of life’ has changed, he replied,

“It hasn’t changed. It’s normal. It’s the same landscape as before. When the sun goes down, when you can see Mt. Fuji – it’s normal. The people I meet look the same. There is no change.”

Even with dementia, the physical landscape doesn’t change. It’s only the person with dementia that changes.

However, most of the negative changes that impact the person with dementia, are related to the way others view and treat that person, and to the disabling environments most societies expect them to live in.

Dr Hasegawa passed away peacefully in his sleep aged 92.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/authority-on-dementia-found-new-insight-as-patient-11637938800

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/ondemand/video/4001348/

 

DAI Members active at the ADI2022 Conference in London


It is an exciting time for many people with dementia from around the world, many of who are also members of DAI, as they are attending and involved at the ADI Conference in London next week, either in person, or virtually.

We congratulate them all, and look forward to reporting back on their sessions.

On Wednesday June 9, ADI and DAI look forward to welcoming all people with dementia and their travel companions or care partners to the conference, which will be held in the Prince of Wales room, during the morning tea break.

Along with key ADI’s Chris Lynch, Jane Cziborra and Paola Barbarino, DAI board members Julie Haydn and Bill Yeates will be there to welcome everyone.

Schedule of speakers with the lived experience of dementia:

Thursday, 9 June

Name Organization Session Time
Kate Swaffer (Session Chair) Co-founder, peer to peer support group co-host & HR Advisor, Dementia Alliance International Dementia Alliance International focuses on inclusive dementia design, Virtual 7:30-8:30am
Helga Rohra

(speaker)

DZNE Dementia Alliance International focuses on inclusive dementia design, Virtual 7:30-8:30am
Helen Rochford Brennan (speaker) Dementia Advocate, Ireland

 

Opening ceremony, 175 suite 8:30-9:30am
Kate Swaffer (moderator)   Risk reduction, prevalence and registries, Duchy suite 11:30am-12:30pm
Keith Oliver

(speaker)

IDEAL programme, University of Exeter Well-being and quality of life, Long room 11:30-12:30pm
Tomofumi Tanno

(Key note speaker)

Dementia Advocate, Dementia Network of Miyagi Plenary 2: The imperatives of diagnosis and treatment, 175 Suite 2:00-3:30pm
Julie Hayden and Nigel Hullah Dementia advocates, 3NDWG Fireside chat in the Exhibition Hall: co design with people with dementia 3:30-4:00pm
Alzheimer’s Society Croydon Singing for the Brain group (performance) Alzheimer’s Society Welcome reception, Lock Bar (roof terrace) 5:45-6:00pm
Donald Baker

(speaker)

Act 2 Studio Works Attitudes, awareness and stigma On demand
Howard Gordon

(speaker)

Deepness Dementia Radio Attitudes, awareness and stigma On demand
Kate Swaffer

(speaker)

DAI & UOW Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia On demand
Christine Thelker

(speaker)

Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging Social isolation, loneliness, depression and the consequences for people with dementia and carers On demand

  Friday, 10 June

Name Organization Session Time
Kevin Quaid

(speaker)

Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland Diagnosis, diagnostic tools and cognitive assessments, Duchy suite 10:30am-12:00pm
Emily Ong

(panelist)

Dementia Alliance International Symposium: ADI accreditation: recognition in dementia care standards, Long room 12:15-1:15pm
Natalie Ive

(speaker)

Dementia Australia Advisory Committee Dementia friendliness, 175 suite 3:30-4:30pm
Kevin Quaid

(speaker)

Dementia Research Advisory Team, Ireland Meet the experts by experience, Long room 4:30-5:00pm
Helen Rochford Brennan

(speaker)

Dementia Research Advisory Team, Ireland Meet the experts by experience, Long room 4:30-5:00pm
Emily Ong

(speaker)

Dementia Alliance International Symposium: Women and Brain Health: Risk reduction and opportunities for achieving a brain healthy lifestyle. Sponsored by AARP, Virtual 5:00-6:00pm

 Saturday, 11 June

Name Organization Session Time
Juanita Hughes

(speaker)

Western Brisbane Dementia Alliance Supporting knowledge exchange and learning through bursaries, Virtual 7:30-8:30am
Kate Swaffer

(Key note speaker)

UOW Plenary 5: Risk reduction and prevention: the latest in research and the challenges of bringing new messages to the broader public, 175 suite 9:00-10:00am
Emily Ong

(speaker)

Dementia Alliance International Support for people with dementia, 175 suite 10:30am-12:00pm
William Yeates

(speaker)

Dementia Alliance International and Dementia Australia Risk factors, Duchy suite 10:30-11:45am
Alister Robertson

(speaker)

Dementia Alliance International Well-being and quality of life II On demand

 

 

World Health Day 2022

On April 7, 2022, DAI joined the world in observing World Health Day, an annual initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote good health and well-being of people across the world. We are posting our blog about World Health Day, to coincide with the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly, being held on 22-28 May 2022 in Geneva.

The theme for World Health Day 2022 focused on raising awareness of the impact of climate change on human health – Our planet, our health.

There is growing research evidence showing that climate change is among the leading global health threat and its impact on health is deeply complex.

One of the environmental health hazards is air pollution which can lead to serious health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD), lung cancer, and the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in older women.

Air pollution is a mix of hazardous gases and fine solid particles and it can come from human-made pollution like, traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and mother nature pollutants, such as smoke from wildfires, ash and gases from volcanic eruptions. Long-term exposure to these pollutants is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells and may cause chronic diseases and cancer.

But what about air pollution on brain health?

In recent years, the possibility of air pollution as a significant threat to brain health has caught the attention of neuroscientists and toxicologists. A study done in Ontario, Canada, revealed that adults living within 300 meters to heavy traffic had a higher risk of dementia and the result is consistent with earlier study done on older men who have long-term exposure to air pollution.

The particulate matter (PM2.5) that arises from wildfires and vehicle emission can be inhaled deeply, affecting the central nervous system, and leading to decreased cognition and well-being. Hence, it is not surprising that air pollution was added to the list of 12 potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care in 2020.

Multiple studies have shown that elevated long-term exposure to PM2.5 was associated with higher hazard of all-cause dementia and vascular/mixed dementia. It also aggravated the early decline of episodic memory problems and depressive symptoms in older women as shown in another study.

What this means to prevention, intervention and care of people living with dementia?

It means that air pollution should not be seen just as environmental threat but also a significant threat to human health. Thus, reducing air pollution is everyone’s business just like dementia is everyone’s business.

There is a need to educate public on the connection between poor air quality and cognition decline, and possibility of developing dementia from long-term exposure. More research is needed to determine which kinds of pollutants are most harmful to brain health.

It also means that residential aged care homes should be situated far away from TRAP and industrial pollution since older people are at-risk group.

However, air pollution is not restricted to outdoor but also indoor and in poorly ventilated homes, concentrations of these gases like nitrogen dioxide can be much higher indoors than outdoors.

This is where environmental design can play a significant role in finding innovative ways to improve air quality and reduce indoor air pollution sources. It is about creating a sustainable and livable place and that is one of the environmental focus areas of the DAI Environmental Design Special Interest Group (ED-SiG).

By Emily Ong, DAI Board member and ED-SiG project lead

#ClimateCrisisIsHealthCrisis
#WorldHealthDay2022
#OurPlanetOurHealth

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#EqualUN: Open Letter re CRPD Committee Elections

We are pleased to announce that Dementia Alliance International is one of more than 80 organisations and experts who have signed an open letter calling on UN member countries to protect gender parity and diversity of representation on the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The letter was coordinated by Sightsavers and partners from Light for the World, GQUAL Campaign, Women Enabled International, CBM Global Disability Inclusion, the World Federation of the Deaf and the International Disability Alliance. It has been sent directly to each participating country’s permanent mission to the UN in New York.  

We signed onto this very important Open Letter to the United Nations to protect gender parity and diverse representation on UN disability committee.

We must ensure people with dementia are not left behind.

Dementia is a condition causing cognitive and mulitple other disabilities, currently affecting more than 57 million people globally, and their families. It also affects more women and girls, than men, making gender parity on the UN CRPD Committee even more critical.

Read the full open letter here:

Your Excellencies,

We the undersigned call on you, as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to use your votes in the election of the new CRPD Committee at the Conference of States Parties in June 2022 to protect the gains made on gender parity on the Committee and to ensure it continues to become more representative and diverse in line with the intent of the CRPD.

In 2020, six women were elected and gender parity on the CRPD Committee was achieved for the very first time. This is in stark contrast to 2016 when no women were elected (resulting in just one woman sitting on the 18-member Committee), and all previous iterations of the Committee, when women were in a minority. States Parties must protect this progress.

The CRPD states in Article 34 (4) that in electing Committee members, consideration should be given to “equitable geographical distribution, representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems, balanced gender representation and participation of experts with disabilities.”

As well as maintaining gender parity, we must ensure equitable geographical distribution and persons with diverse types of disability. To make progress towards an equal world for everyone, in both public and political life, it’s essential that the voices of underrepresented groups of persons with disabilities are heard, including women with disabilities, deaf persons, deaf-blind persons, persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with psychosocial disabilities.

At the Conference of States Parties in June 2022, you have an opportunity to protect the gains made in recent years on the CRPD Committee on gender parity, and drive progress towards representing the full diversity of voices of experts with disabilities. We urge all States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to cast their votes with this in mind.

Sincerely,

Coordinating group 

Sightsavers #EqualUN Campaign (UK/Global) 
Light for the World (Austria/Global) 
GQUAL Campaign (Global) 
Women Enabled International (USA/Global) 
CBM Global Disability Inclusion (Netherlands/Global) 
World Federation of the Deaf (Finland/Global) 
International Disability Alliance (USA/Global) 

The full list of signatures and the translated versions of the letter can be found here.

Note: These graphics were generously provided for anyone to dowlload to use for social media posts.

Research Wrap: Brain Health and Sleep

Let’s talk about brain health: Sleep

As #DAI progresses with its series of monthly research blogs, we thank Laura Garcia Diaz for our April research blog, focused on the impact of sleep on dementia.

Thank you Laura.

“I live in Canada and on March 13th our clocks went forward one hour. Even though an hour difference may not sound like a lot, the week after the time changes (especially when we lose an hour in the process), I always feel off. Since the topic of sleep has been on my mind lately, I decided to dedicate this blog to it. What does the science tell us about sleep and brain health?

Sleep is essential for life, so it may not be surprising to learn that sleep plays a very important role in keeping our brain healthy. Sleep has been shown to play an important role in helping us remember things, known and memory consolidation, and learning (Krause et al., 2017).

It appears that while we sleep our brain is working hard to help us remember everything we did and/or learned that day. Studies have also shown that abnormal sleep-wake patterns and breathing difficulties while sleeping (for example, sleep apnea) are associated with an increased risk of dementia (e.g., Yaffe et al., 2014).

Although the relationship between sleep and dementia is still being studied, sleep is now recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Based on this information, it appears that sleep plays an important role in maintaining brain health as we age.

Although the role of sleep on supporting our brain health has been of interest to scientists for many years, the amount of sleep required for optimal brain health is still unclear (Tai et al., 2022). When reviewing the literature, something that I found interesting, is that going to bed late at night and wake up late in the day has been found to be associated with cardiovascular disease and mortality (Knutson et al., 2018; Partonen, 2015). I have always been told to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

When reviewing the literature, I found that both short (less than 7 hours) and long (more than 10 hours) sleep duration appears to impact cognitive performance (for example, attention and working memory) (Hirshkowitz et al, 2015; Gildner et al., 2014).

However, some studies have also shown no relationship between sleep duration and cognition (e.g., Saint Martin et al., 2012). Interestingly, in a recent study, six or less hours of sleep at night were found to be associated with a higher dementia risk, when compared to sleeping seven hours (Sabia et al., 2021). Similarly, in another recent study, it was found that peak cognitive performance was associated with seven hours of sleep at night (Tai et al., 2022).

Although the science does not appear to have a definitive answer regarding the sleep required for optimal brain health (particularly for supporting cognition), it does appear that there are benefits to getting 7 hours of sleep at night. I did not conduct a thorough research on this topic, so if anyone is interested in learning more about this, please let me know in the comments and I can dedicate another blog to this.

I thought I’d be good to end this blog with some information about sleep hygiene.

Here are some tips for better sleep:

  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • To prevent you from having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, try not to drink a lot of liquids before going to bed.
  • If possible, avoid heavy meals too close to bedtime.
  • Try to relax before bed. Something that I like to do is light yoga followed by a 10 min meditation. It always helps me have a better sleep.
  • If you are a coffee or tea drinker, try limiting your caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening.
  • Technology seems to be everywhere these days, and if you are like me, I often have my phone with me everywhere I go. For a better sleep, try turning off all your devices at least 3—45 minutes before you go to bed.
  • Try to move your body every day!
  • If you are a napper like me, try to restrict your naps to a maximum of 45 minutes.

I have not always prioritized my sleep, but since starting my PhD program I have made an effort to develop good sleeping habits. I am now very strict about my nighttime routine and incorporating the strategies mentioned in this blog has really made a difference!

Do you have a nighttime routine? I’d love to learn what helps you get a good night’s sleep!

Laura

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References

Gildner TE, Liebert MA, Kowal P, et al. (2014). Associations between sleep duration, sleep quality, and cognitive test performance among older adults from six middle income countries: results from the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE). J Clin Sleep Med, 10, 613–621.

Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 21, 40–43.

Knutson, KL, et al. (2018). Associations between chronotype, morbidity and mortality in the UK Biobank cohort. Chronobiol Int, 35(8), 1045–1053.

Sabia, S. et al. (2021) Association of sleep duration in middle and old age with incidence of dementia. Nat. Commun., 12, 1–10.

Saint Martin, M. et al. (2012). Does subjective sleep affect cognitive function in healthy elderly subjects? The Proof cohort. Sleep. Med, 13, 1146–1152.

Partonen, T. (2015). Chronotype and health outcomes. Curr Sleep Med Rep, 1(4), 205–211.

Yaffe, K., Nettiksimmons, J., & Byers, A. (2014). Sleep disturbances and risk of dementia among older veterans. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 10, DOI:10.1016/j.jalz.2014.05.969

Tai, X., Chen, C., Manoar, S., & Husain, M. (2022). Impact of sleep duration on executive function and brain structure. Communications Biology, 5. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-022-03123-3