Itâs already known that a lack of sleep is a major problem for those suffering from dementia. Alzheimerâs patients often experience sleep deprivation and sleep disorders.
The negative effects of little sleep are unquestionable. It can boost stress, affect cognitive function, and lower quality of life. These problems are exacerbated in people with Alzheimerâs disease.
Insomnia and Alzheimerâs go hand in hand, often accompanied by sleep apnea. What most of us donât know, however, is that itâs possible sleep disorders could actually be a cause of Alzheimerâs.
A Little Bit About Alzheimerâs Disease
Youâve definitely heard of Alzheimerâs before and you likely know someone who has it. It could be someone you are very close to, therein affecting you very deeply. Caring for someone with Alzheimerâs is very taxing. It can be crushing to see a person you love so removed from their former self.Alzheimerâs is the most common form of dementia and affects roughly 4.5 million Americans. That number is expected to rise as the population ages. Although Alzheimerâs is closely associated with aging, it is not a normal occurrence. Alzheimerâs affects a personâs thoughts, memory, and speech; making it very difficult to carry out many of the daily activities you currently take for granted. These cognitive disabilities kick in because brain tissue is lostâand that same brain tissue that is gone can disrupt the circadian rhythm (sleep/wake/metabolic cycle), causing sleep troubles, wandering, and agitation.
Sleep Deprivation in Alzheimerâs Patients
Not getting enough sleep is common for Alzheimerâs patients. The disruptions in sleep usually depend on the stage of the disease. Those who are in the early stages may wake up and feel tired or disoriented, while those whoâve experienced progression in Alzheimerâs might awaken frequently throughout the night or fall asleep randomly during the day. The more advanced the disease, the less likely it becomes for a night of regular, uninterrupted sleep.
This merits all kinds of negative effects. Not only does it make Alzheimerâs patients more tired and disoriented, but it alters their metabolism, body temperature, wakefulness, and sleep cycle. Sleep also creates an opportunity for the brain to clean itselfâa sort of detox, if you willâby flushing out waste products of neural activity. Itâs still unknown that this cleanup (or lack thereof) impacts Alzheimerâs and your health, but Iâm confident that it does.
Alzheimerâs and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease, which can increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack. But did you know it may also be genetically linked to Alzheimerâs? A Stanford University study found that obstructive sleep apnea shares a common gene associated with chronic illness. Now, it is hard to tell if the obstructive sleep apnea is a contributor to the cause of Alzheimerâs by severely limiting the number of quality hours of sleep you get each night or if thereâs some other connection, but it is an area thatâs being explored.
Sleep, Alzheimerâs and Beta-Amyloid Plaque
An important study from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health shows that research links disturbed sleep to brain function in aging adults. People with Alzheimerâs were shown to spend more time awake than people without it, as well as having a more fragmented sleep schedule; they got up more often and slept at various periods during the day as opposed to overnight. This is very important because sleep patterns are closely linked to an amino acid called beta-amyloid.
Beta-amyloids are parts of proteins found in the fatty membrane that surrounds nerve cells. There are approximately 100 billion nerve cells in the brain (and the brain is roughly 60% fat). Needless to say, there are a lot of beta-amyloids. Because of their composition, beta-amyloids can create a plaque, or even bind together, which results in cognitive impairment. Beta-amyloid clusters and plaques are closely associated with Alzheimerâs. The research done by John Hopkins explicitly showed that beta-amyloid levels are regulated, and that clusters and plaques can be removed by regular sleep.
During the study, people who slept for less than five hours every night experienced more beta-amyloid buildup than those who slept at least five hours every night.
How to Get Adequate Sleep
I think itâs safe to say that sleep plays an important role in cognitive function, and is something that should be considered as a preventative measure for dementia and Alzheimerâs. Although the cause is not firmly established, improving sleeping patterns is a beneficial practice, regardless. Adopting healthy sleep patterns as soon as possible can not only improve your life and health in the short term, but it may prevent or delay Alzheimerâs and its symptoms.
Getting adequate sleep on a regular cycle is very important to manage Alzheimerâs symptoms and prevent cognitive decline. Keeping your sleep pattern consistent, whether itâs during the week or on weekends, should be a priority. Setting an environment that is conducive to sleep is an essential step in making this happen. Here are some ways to optimize your sleep environment:
Turn Off Screens
The lights that emanate from smartphones, tablets, and TVs all provide stimulus that can prevent you from falling asleep.
Set a Schedule and Stick to It
Try to start winding down by dimming the lights and relaxing about two hours before bedtime. When itâs time for bed, go to your bed and attempt to fall asleep. Set your alarm for the time you want to wake up, and get out of bed when it sounds. If you need a short nap during the day, take it. But limit its duration to 20-30 minutes. Over time, you should adjust to your sleep schedule.
When You Get Out of Bed, Go Into a Bright Room
Seeing the sun in the morning and exposing yourself to natural light will help you wake up and adjust your sleep cycle.
See More :
âPoor sleep may be linked to Alzheimerâs Disease,â Fisher Center for Alzheimerâs Research foundation, 2015; https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/poor-sleep-may-be-linked-to-alzheimers-disease/, last accessed April 15, 2015.
Adam P. Spira, PhD, Alyssa A. Gamaldo, PhD, Yang An, MS, et al: âSelf-Reported Sleep and Beta-Amyloid Deposition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults.â Andrew S. P.Â Lim,Â MD; LeiÂ Yu,Â PhD; MatthewÂ Kowgier,Â PhD, et al: âModification of the Relationship of the Apolipoprotein E E4 Allele to the Risk of Alzheimer Disease and Neurofibrillary Tangle Density by Sleep.âÂ JAMA NeurologyÂ Oct. 21, 2013.
Whiteman, H., âLack of sleep may increase Alzheimerâs risk,â Medical News Today, October 22, 2013; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267710.php, last accessed April 15, 2015.
Vitiello, M., âAlzheimerâs Disease and Sleep,â National Sleep Foundation web site. 2015; http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/alzheimers-disease-and-sleep, last accessed April 15, 2015.