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About sleep and brain health

Sleep is very important for our physical and mental health and well-being. As adults, we spend one-third of our lives asleep, but insufficient and disrupted sleep are common especially in older adults.

Existing research suggests that poor sleep may have a huge impact on brain health. Sleep appears to play a key role in ridding the brain of toxic proteins and other waste products, consolidating memories, enhancing learning, and maintaining normal brain cell architecture. Older adults with disrupted or inadequate sleep have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal accumulations of toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and small blood vessel abnormalities associated with dementia. Moreover, treatment of sleep apnea—a common and treatable sleep disorder—can be associated with improvements in cognitive performance. However, there is much that we do not know about the links between sleep health and brain health.

That is why the Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study is important. By building a better understanding of the links between sleep health and brain health, the Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study may help us design novel sleep-based interventions to enhance brain health and slow or prevent cognitive decline in adults with and without Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of cognitive impairment.