Improving sleep may stave off dementia

April 02, 2018
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IN THE NEWS: Dr. Ruth Benca, chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior in the UCI School of Medicine, addressed the connection between sleep and dementia during a panel discussion of Maria Shriver’s “Move for Minds” initiative, covered by the Los Angeles Times.

Here is the short version of what you need to know about what experts think is the best way to reduce the risk of dementia and its various cousins:

Get plenty of exercise. Sleep a lot (but don't use pills). Eat well (cut out processed foods, and unless you have a medical condition, stop being a jerk about gluten). Drink tap water (unless you live in Flint, Mich.).

Ruth Benca, a UC Irvine psychiatrist and expert on sleep and brain health, said at least 15% of dementia is directly related to sleep disturbance and sleep problems.

Happily, she said, these are treatable issues.

In addition to the right kind of diet, meditation and exercise, she said, it is commonly accepted that the first-line treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy that focuses on developing coping strategies to combat self-defeating thoughts.

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