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Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Professor, Member of Global Council on Brain Health: ‘Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep for a Healthier Brain’

A new report, issued on January 10 by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH),  recommends seven to eight hours of sleep each day as a way to maintain brain health, even as one ages.

Established in 2015, the GCBH is an independent, international collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts who work in areas of brain health related to human cognition. The collaborative is convened by AARP, with support from Age UK.

[Photo: Dr. Peggye Dilworth-Anderson]

“This report reflects the collaboration of the GCBH with leading scientists and experts around the world on sleep and brain health,” said Dr. Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, professor of health policy and management at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and GCBH committee member. “It aims to educate policy makers, caregivers, the general public and others about the importance of sleep, brain health and cognitive functioning.”

A recent AARP consumer survey  found that 99 percent of adults ages 50 and older believe that sleep is important for their brain health. However, only about four in 10 (43 percent) report getting enough sleep. More than half of adults (54 percent) say they wake up too early in the morning and are unable to go back to sleep.

The new recommendations cover a wide range of sleep-related issues, including common factors that can disrupt sleep, symptoms of potential sleep disorders, and prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. A host of helpful expert tips also are included in the report, such as ways to aid falling asleep or staying asleep, when to seek professional help for a possible sleep disorder, and the pros and cons of napping.

Based on the scientific evidence, the GCBH made the following consensus statements:

The following are some of the tips included in the report:

“Although sleep problems are a huge issue with older adults, it’s unfortunate the importance of sleep is often not taken seriously by health care professionals,” said Ms. Sarah Lock, AARP senior vice president for policy and GCBH executive director. “It’s normal for sleep to change as we age, but poor-quality sleep is not normal. Our experts share the steps people can take to help maintain their brain health through better sleep habits.”

The full GCBH recommendations can be found here, including a useful infographic.

The 2016 AARP Sleep and Brain Health Survey can be found here.

Note: Dr. Dilworth-Anderson, former president of the Gerontological Society of America (2009) and winner of the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Award in Alzheimer’s Research (2010), is an internationally recognized expert on issues related to aging, including care giving to people with dementia, minority aging and health, and chronic disease care and management in cultural context. She focuses on aging and memory issues as part of the research collaborative efforts  between University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and the University of Cambridge (U.K.)

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