Sleep has many benefits; energy, focus, muscle repair and the list goes on. Researchers may have discovered another reason to get a good night’s sleep. A team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center published their findings about sleep as a potential new marker for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in JAMA Network Open.

To conduct the research, a scale called a “Brain Age Index” (BAI) was created to determine someone’s “brain age.” This algorithm was used to determine the difference between a person’s actual age and how old their brain is from a biological standpoint. The team theorized that a higher BAI can potentially serve as a marker for a diagnosis of dementia later on. To compute, electrical currents (EEGs) were used to monitor adult participants during 5,144 sleep cycles. The participants included individuals both with and without dementia: 2,336 without any diagnosis, 88 with dementia and 44 living with mild cognitive impairment.

The findings of the result confirmed the benefit of deep, restful sleep in prevention of dementia. As someone’s BAI rose, so did the level of cognitive impairment, with those living with dementia measuring BAIs at an average of four years older than their actual age.

One of the co-authors of the study, MGH Department of Neurology Investigator Alice Lam, reiterated the impact of the findings, telling the Harvard Gazette:

“Because [it’s] quite feasible to obtain multiple nights of EEG, even at home, we expect that measuring BAI will one day become a routine part of primary care, as important as measuring blood pressure. BAI has potential as a screening tool for the presence of underlying neurodegenerative disease and monitoring of disease progression.”

This study is just one of many that are unlocking clues to give the medical community more ways to diagnosis dementia earlier. Until there is a cure, we must focus on earlier diagnosis and improving the quality of life of those living with memory impairment.

Please join me in supporting the important work being done, and in becoming Dementia Aware.

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