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Sleep Well to Lower Your Risk for Alzheimer’s

Getting a good night’s sleep is necessary for achieving optimal physical health and mental wellness. A full night of uninterrupted sleep has several benefits, including a boosted immune system, weight management, a lowered risk for serious health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, and an increase in productivity,  mood and memory.

Does Sleeping Well Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Sleeping well comes with a host of benefits. One of these benefits is a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s is well documented through research and studies.

Although scientists and medical researchers don’t know exactly how poor sleep can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's and dementia, they do know that sleep is linked to the protein beta amyloid. Research has found that beta amyloid forms Alzheimer’s plaques when it groups and clusters together.

How Does Sleep Affect Alzheimer’s?

Restorative sleep can affect Alzheimer’s because it is linked to how damaging toxins and proteins, like beta amyloid, are flushed from the brain. There is a complex pattern of changes that occur during sleep, including the most restorative stage of sleep, called slow wave sleep. This sleep stage occurs during the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep phase.

Emerging research suggests that toxins and wastes, including the Alzheimer’s-linked beta amyloid protein, are cleared from our brains through a brain waste clearance system during slow wave sleep. This clearance system is called the glymphatic system or neuro-lymphatic system. When the glymphatic system is interrupted, it can lead to a buildup of amyloid plaque and tau protein. The buildup can lead to blocked communication between neurons and the obstruction of nutrients being transported to nerve cells, eventually leading to neurodegeneration. This kind of neurodegeneration can be associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

An increased Alzheimer’s risk isn’t the only problem associated with poor sleep. Missing out on restorative slow wave sleep can lead to short-term and other long-term problems as well.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

When you don’t get enough sleep or your sleep is interrupted, it can create more problems than you realize. The short-term effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • cognitive dysfunction
  • the ability to stay alert
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • moodiness
  • a decreased quality of life
  • a greater likelihood of car accidents
  • memory problems

The long-term effects associated with chronic sleep deprivation can cause serious health problems that include:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • an increased risk for a heart attack
  • heart failure
  • stroke
  • obesity
  • depression
  • lower sex drive
  • cancer
  • premature death

Improving your sleep health can be the first step in preventing both short-term and long-term effects.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Nighttime sleep provides the most important benefits to our health and well-being, including aligning our circadian rhythms, which controls our body’s sleep-wake cycles. 

While consulting a doctor is key, making lifestyle changes can lead to healthy sleep and the associated benefits. Consider the following factors to ensure you are getting uninterrupted quality sleep:

Consider Modifying Behavioral Factors

Factors that can negatively impact your sleep include caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, eating dinner too late, excessive fluid intake, excessive daytime napping or exercising too close to bedtime.

Know Your Ideal Hours

All sleep is not created equal. The amount of sleep you need is unique to your individual needs and may be different from your partner’s or friends’.

The number of sleep hours you get should range from six to nine hours per night. Knowing how much sleep you need to feel good and be productive, and maintaining a consistent schedule, including a fixed bedtime and wake-up time, supports good quality sleep.

Avoid Long Daytime Naps

Daytime napping beyond 30-45 total minutes per day can be detrimental to your overall health. Long daytime naps decrease our body’s need to sleep at night, thereby directly contributing to lower quality, less restorative sleep and possibly more frequent nighttime awakenings.

Daytime napping often leads to a vicious cycle, whereby nighttime sleep is disrupted, resulting in being tired the next day and needing to nap again. Over time, this can lead to a chronically problematic sleep-wake cycle, insomnia and low energy. If you have trouble sleeping one night and are tired the next day, try to avoid napping longer than 30 minutes that day.

Trust your body; when bedtime comes, the prior night’s sleep deprivation will lead to a more restorative sleep. This will then reset your body’s internal clock and get you back on track.

Consider Medical Conditions

Identify any possible medical conditions that could be affecting your sleep, such as movement disorders, medications, mood changes, such as depression and anxiety, urologic conditions, chronic pain or sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.

If you are concerned about your or your loved one’s quality of sleep, make an appointment with a doctor today. We’re here for you every step of the way.