This article appears in the Winter Boomers magazine.

Of the five stages of sleep, REM sleep is when dreaming occurs. While scientists don’t fully understand sleep and its connection to aging, a new study finds that people who get less REM sleep are a greater risk of developing dementia.

In the dream stage, the eyes move rapidly and there is increased brain activity, higher body temperature, quicker pulse and faster breathing.

The first REM stage occurs about an hour to an hour-and-a-half into sleep and then recurs multiple times throughout the night as sleep cycles repeat.

“Sleep disturbances are common in dementia but little is known about the various stages of sleep and whether they play a role in dementia risk,” said study author Matthew P. Pase, of Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. “We set out to discover which stages of sleep may be linked to dementia, and while we did not find a link with deep sleep, we did with REM sleep.”

The people who developed dementia spent an average of 17 percent of sleep time in REM sleep, compared to 20 percent for those who did not develop dementia. For every percent reduction in REM sleep there was a 9 percent increase in the risk of dementia.

Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, board certified sleep medicine physician and author of “Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day,” offers the following tips to achieve good sleep:

1. Establish a calming bedtime routine.

2. If you are not sleepy, get out of the bedroom and do something relaxing.

3. Avoid behaviors like caffeine after noon, alcohol to help you sleep, and computers and electronic devices for at least 60 minutes before bedtime.

4. If you cannot stay asleep, consult with your doctor. There may be an underlying sleep or medical disorder that is the cause.