Seeing my mom suffer from senior dementia over the final few years of her life was painful for our whole family. As you might expect, the threat of dementia has become one of my greatest fears, if not the greatest. Soon I’ll be entering my seventies and warding off brain disease has become a bit of a personal mission. As such, I am an avid reader of news and research on dementia prevention.
Anyone following podcasts and longform health media will have noticed the growing attention to sleep and its health impacts. It seems getting enough sleep, and the right kind of sleep can have a profound effect on your mental wellness. Research cites poor sleep habits as one possible source of brain function loss, from alzheimer’s and other forms of brain disease. It turns out that both quality *and* quantity of sleep play a role. Studies show the “rapid eye movement” (REM) stage, where we dream, is particularly important.
Recently I started to monitor my sleep using my Fitbit Charge 2. Just a few years ago you’d need to enroll in a sleep study or find your way to a sleep lab to get the level of information now available with this wearable and the smartphone app. Now, all I need to do is wear the fitbit in bed. In the morning, the app queries the Fitbit, analyzes the data, and presents me with the record. It works well for me because it’s easy, it presents a data in a way that I can understand, and it has a comparison function to see how I compare to other men my age.
Is there a guarantee that this technology will prevent dementia? Certainly not. But unlike other daily habits like eating well and getting exercise, I can’t consciously assess the quality of my sleep. Using the Fitbit not only helps motivate me to maintain good sleep habits, it also gives me peace of mind that I’m taking important steps to keep my brain healthy for the long term.