Can a lack of sleep result in Alzheimer’s disease?
Recent research confirms what many already know: sleep deprivation worsens as we age. People often wake up more frequently at night, sleep less deeply, and wake up too early in the morning as they age – but could our sleeping problems put us at risk for cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease if we fail to count out sheep on our San Diego mattresses?
It has long been recognized that people with Alzheimer’s frequently experience sleep difficulties. Scientists are now investigating the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease earlier in the disease process. They are looking to discover if improving sleep with existing treatments could help memory and other cognitive functions, potentially delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
So what do doctors and researchers have to say about the issue? Recent research suggests that lack of sleep contributes to abnormal levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which leads to the amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease brain. These plaques may then affect sleep-related brain regions, disrupting sleep even more. Human studies have also looked at the link between sleep and biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, poor sleep quality was found to be associated with lower beta-amyloid levels in cerebrospinal fluid, a preclinical sign of Alzheimer’s. Another study by NIA and Johns Hopkins University discovered that healthy seniors who reported less sleep at night had higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain than those who did not.
While many adults have difficulty sleeping, people with dementia frequently have even more difficulty. Sleep disruption affects up to 25% of people with mild to moderate dementia and 50% of people with severe dementia. As dementia progresses in severity, sleep disturbances tend to worsen. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common among Alzheimer’s patients, as well. This potentially severe sleep disorder causes breathing to stop and repeatedly start during sleep, potentially leading to many other health problems. As of writing, more research is being conducted to determine the value of a good night’s sleep in delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s disease as you read this article!
So what can you do about it in the meantime? The answer is straightforward, of course! Quality sleep has been shown to improve concentration, learning, mood, and overall health in everyone regardless of age, gender, or where in the world you come from! Sleep quality can be improved, and people with sleep issues should see a sleep medicine specialist to function at their best. Regardless of your age, always be sure your bed is the best it can be!
So seniors: Take your sleep seriously!
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