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Deep Sleep Amount In Your 40’s & 50’s Predicts Dementia Decades Later

Dr. Sara Mednick
with Jane Rogers

A Heads-up for Night Owls — Going to Bed Early Can Help Stave off Dementia

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A good way to keep one’s cognitive faculties strong is to go to bed at a decent hour, according to Dr. Sara Mednick, director of the Sleep and Cognition Lab at the University of California, Irvine.

Her research shows the amount of deep sleep we get in mid-life is critical for preventing dementia as we age.  It’s so important that Dr. Mednick recommends getting to bed at 9pm since deep sleep happens at the beginning of the night and you want to get as much of it as possible.

A phase of sleep she calls “downstate” is important to the rhythm of life because it allows people to restore energy for their waking hours.

If toxic proteins accumulated in the brain during daytime are not flushed out at night, they can build into “plaques and tangles” that become part of dementia.

Healthy long-term sleep patterns, Dr. Mednick says, can prevent “memory pathologies.”

“The amount of slow wave sleep (deep sleep) that you get in your 40s and 50s can predict the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's in your 60s and 70s and 80s."
Dr. Sara Mednick

About Dr.Sara Mednick

Professor Sara Mednick, PhD is a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine and author of The Power of the Downstate. She is passionate about understanding how the brain works through her research into sleep and the autonomic nervous system. Dr. Mednick’s seven-bedroom sleep lab works literally around-the-clock to discover methods for boosting cognition by napping, stimulating the brain with electricity, sound and light, and pharmacology. Her lab also investigates how the menstrual cycle and aging affect the brain. Her science has been continuously federally funded (National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense Office of Naval Research, DARPA).

Dr. Mednick was awarded the Office Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2015. Her research findings have been published in such leading scientific journals as Nature Neuroscience and The Proceedings from the National Academy of Science, and covered by all major media outlets. She received a BA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, in Drama/Dance. After college, her experience working in the psychiatry department at Bellevue Hospital in New York, inspired her to study the brain and how to make humans smarter through better sleep. She received a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University, and then completed a postdoc at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and UC San Diego. She resides in San Diego, CA.


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