What New Study on Sleep and Dementia Shows about Good Rest and Healthy Aging

Man laying in bed sleeping

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 



With more than 6 million Americans now living with Alzheimer’s disease and a 145% increase in deaths from dementia between 2000 and 2019, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s no wonder seniors fear this disease. Or why the medical community is feverishly working to identify not only a cure but what might cause Alzheimer’s or other dementias in the first place. A new research study suggests that not getting enough sleep in your 50s and 60s could be a risk factor for dementia. Here’s what the sleep-dementia connection could mean for you and how it highlights the importance of good rest in healthy aging plus sleep tips for seniors.

New Research on Sleep and Dementia

Recently published in the journal Nature Communications– a study that followed nearly 8,000 people in Britain for about 25 years, beginning when they were 50 years old found those who consistently reported sleeping six hours or less on average a night were approximately 30 percent more likely than those who regularly got the “normal” seven hours of sleep to be diagnosed with dementia in their late 70s.

What’s the connection? As brain changes such as accumulations of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease are known to begin about 15 to 20 years before symptoms are present, the thinking is that sleep patterns within that time frame could be considered an emerging effect of the disease. Although this one study can’t definitively say which comes first, the sleep problem or the brain changes, it does show strong evidence of the connection between the two.

It’s important to note that the researchers were able to adjust for other behaviors and characteristics that might influence sleep patterns or dementia risk in the study such as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, education level, marital status and conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, there were limitations in the study including that most data were self-reported, most participants were white, better educated, and healthier than the overall British population, and researchers relied on electronic medical records for dementia diagnoses which means they could have missed some cases.

How Lack of Sleep Hurts Healthy Aging 

But sleeping too little isn’t just a concern when it comes to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It’s recommended that adults between 18 and 64 get seven to nine hours of sleep per night and those over 65 get seven to eight hours. Yet, according to the CDC, 35.2% of all adults in the United States report sleeping on average for less than seven hours per night. 

For seniors, this is even more common because of factors such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, arthritis, side effects of medications, and even changes in your body’s internal clock.

In the short-term, lack of sleep may cause excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of alertness, irritability, and even withdrawal from social activity, but long term it can put you at risk for: 

  • Premature wrinkling, dark circles under eyes
  • Greater likelihood of falls or accidents
  • High blood pressure 
  • Diabetes,
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Obesity, 
  • Depression
  • Impairment in immunity 

Better Sleep Tips for Seniors

Now that you know why getting good rest is so important to healthy aging, the question is what can you do to improve your sleep? These tips can help:

  • Follow a regular schedule – Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
  • Minimize naps – Especially in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Watch what you eat – Avoid large meals and caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Exercise – Regular exercise can help regulate sleep patterns, but not within three hours of bedtime
  • Create a cozy place to sleep – Keep the bedroom quiet and at a comfortable temperature and use low lighting in the evenings.
  • Have a bedtime routine – To help you wind down, take time to relax before bed each night with a book, music or even a warm bath.
  • Use your bedroom for sleep – Avoid watching the TV, phone or iPad in bed.

Healthy Aging in Senior Living

While sleep is vital to healthy aging, there are other components that contribute as well such as proper nutrition, staying active, maintaining social connections, and living with purpose, all of which our Vibrant Living program can help you achieve. Not to mention, the added peace of mind that comes from safe, comfortable surroundings where support and convenience are always at hand. 

Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Early Signs of Dementia to learn more. Or, contact your nearest Vitality Living community today to schedule your virtual tour!


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