A new study found persistent inadequate sleep can have ramifications, especially for middle-aged and older adults.

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Sleep is a super-important factor in overall health and well-being. Getting enough sleep can boost heart health and immunity, clear skin and even promote weight loss. However, sacrificing sleep can lead to some undesirable consequences: impairing your memory, impeding your focus and increasing your risk for several chronic illnesses. A new study found that not catching enough zzz's might also increase your risk for dementia by as much as 30%. Here is what they found and what it means for you. 

A recent study published in Nature Communications took a look at how sleep (and lack thereof) influenced instances of dementia in middle-aged and older adults. They followed almost 8,000 participants for 25 years regarding their sleep habits. They found that for people age 50 to 70, regularly sleeping less than six hours per night was associated with a 30% increased risk of dementia independent of sociodemographic, behavioral, cardiometabolic and mental factors. Though their study was large and had a long follow-up period, it does not determine whether this relationship between sleep and dementia is cause-and-effect, but it does illuminate that persistent inadequate sleep can leave the brain vulnerable as you age. 

Having a bad night of sleep doesn't mean you are going to get dementia, but this study reiterates the importance of trying to build healthy sleep habits. There are a few ways to practice good sleep hygiene, according to doctors and experts. Keeping a regular sleep-and-wake schedule can help your body get into a routine and make it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up rested. Skipping alcohol late at night and waiting 30 minutes before gulping down coffee in the morning can also help you fall asleep more soundly and avoid crashing midday. Also, certain foods can help with sleep, including fiber-rich foods, fish, fruit and whole grains. Finding a sustainable sleep schedule for your life is important for your health, and can help cut down on your dementia risk as you age.