Bedtime: A Boon For The Aging Brain?

September 13, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

Could teaching individuals with mild cognitive decline how to sleep better actually stave off their descent into dementia?

That’s Meghan Mattos’ focus. And with support from a $300,000 Translational Health Research Institute grant, Mattos – an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Virginia who’s studied rural-dwelling adults with mild cognitive impairment – will determine the feasibility of an online sleep education program developed by UVA psychology professor Lee Ritterband in older adults with this early form of dementia.

The hypothesis, Mattos explained, is not only that the six-week program may offer non-pharmacological insomnia relief to patients with mild cognitive impairment, but that purposefully improving their sleep patterns through an accessible online program may slow their otherwise likely decline towards dementia.

“We don’t know if bad sleep is causing dementia, or dementia is causing bad sleep,” Mattos said, “but we do know that there’s a relationship between them, and we hope to find out what is causing what” – and what difference a program like Ritterband’s SHUTi OASIS (Sleep Healthy Using the Internet for Older Adult Sufferers of Insomnia and Sleeplessness) might make.