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How a Lack of Sleep May Cause Alzheimer’s Disease


Lack of Sleep and DementiaThere is scientific evidence that a lack of sleep may cause Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep is a natural part of human biological processes, but many people find that getting a good night’s sleep is a challenge in today’s hectic world. Juggling schedules, working late into the evening, and surrendering to the lure of internet communications can conspire to prevent relaxation necessary for normal sleep cycles.

Chronic lack of proper sleep can lead to a broad range of health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease. You might want to take a closer look to determine whether you are at risk and should take greater care in ensuring a good night’s rest.


Sleep and the Brain


Scientists have been researching the purpose of sleep for many decades. A recent study on mice seemed to indicate that sleeping flushes the buildup of toxins in the brain that result from a regular day of activity. This evidence suggests that sleep is critical for the removal of metabolic waste in the body. Human sleeping patterns fall into two categories: slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid-eye movement sleep (REM), which is associated with dreaming. Most sleep is of the SWS type, but both types appear to perform the restorative functions involved in normal sleep patterns.


Sleep and Your Health


Sleep and DementiaThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers disrupted sleep a public health problem. Many studies have linked poor sleep with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, attention deficit disorder, mood swings, and impaired mental function. Individuals who don’t get at least six or seven hours of sleep each night have a greater chance of dying as a result than those who carry other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

Increasing the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease


The study done at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found that individuals with chronic sleep disruptions had higher levels of tau and beta amyloid, two brain proteins in their spinal fluid. A single night of interrupted sleep caused a 10 percent increase in beta amyloid, compared to the group of undisturbed sleepers. Tau amyloid protein levels rose after a week of disrupted sleep. Both proteins are commonly associated with the plaques and tangles found in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Improving your sleep patterns will reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


Improving Sleep Patterns


If you take getting a serious good night’s sleep seriously, you can help to improve both your physical health and your long-term cognitive function. Here are some ideas:

  • Avoid Late Night Eating – Eat lightly after 6 p.m. and also avoid foods and beverages that can interfere with sound sleep, such as alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and even chocolate.
  • Don’t Exercise too Late at Night – If you exercise in the evening, schedule it several hours in advance of your bedtime.
  • Get Comfortable – Ensure that your bedroom is a comfortable space for sleeping, with the right temperature, limited or no light, and reduced sound. If necessary, use a sleep mask or earplugs.
  • Use Ambient Sounds – Some people prefer a “white noise” machine that produces neutral or soothing sounds to help improve sleep.
  • Turn Off Technology – Avoid using your television, computer or smartphone in the hours before bedtime. Evidence shows that blue light from computer screens interferes with sleep hormones, which can prevent sound sleep.
  • Sleep in the Right Position – Some evidence indicates that sleeping on your side is the optimum position for removing toxins from the brain.


How a Lack of Sleep May Cause Alzheimer’s Disease – Conclusion 


Sleep and Alzheimer'sAlthough many people pride themselves on being able to manage on just a few hours sleep each night, they may be setting up the conditions that can lead to health problems, including the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. When you take the time to create the right conditions for good sleep, you are helping to ensure your good health, both in a general, physical sense and in a cognitive sense.



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