During a good night’s sleep, your body removes the toxic proteins that accumulate daily in your brain. But evidence suggests that people with conditions like sleep apnea, which disrupts nighttime breathing, have difficulty achieving this deep, pre-REM sleep stage essential for a healthy mind, increasing their risk for dementia. “Promoting good sleep may be one of the most important preventative factors for good brain health,” said Dr. Emet Schneiderman, director of the School of Dentistry’s Sleep Research Program.
In a recent study, he found that participants with Alzheimer’s had unhealthier breathing rates during sleep. The study demonstrated that a special oral device similar to a bite guard could help patients breathe—and therefore sleep—better. This simple change improved brain function for individuals with mild cognitive impairment, which can lead to Alzheimer’s.
“These devices are a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive way to make a difference in people’s lives and maybe prevent dementia,” Schneiderman said, “and that is tremendously exciting.”
As for how you can catch quality zzz’s, Schneiderman advises sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine in the evening and screen time soon before bed. If you snore, feel tired during the day, and have additional risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure, consider asking your doctor about your chances of sleep apnea. Your brain will thank you!