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Lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s risk

Lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s risk

Can lack of sleep cause Alzheimer’s? Recent studies confirm what many of us already know: sleep gets worse as we age. Starting around middle-aged and older, people often wake more frequently at night, sleep less deeply and wake too early in the morning. Could these sleeping issues be putting us at risk for cognitive decline or even Alzheimer’s disease?

What is sleep deprivation’s link with dementia?

One night of poor sleep can cause issues with your thinking the next day. But many months or years of inadequate sleep may lead to more serious and chronic problems with your thinking. For example, one study found that people who sleep less than 4 hours a night may struggle more with their thinking, learning, and memory abilities.

Research is ongoing, but so far, a history of sleep trouble does seem to increase the risk of dementia for some people. One study suggests sleep deprivation could increase your dementia risk by 20%. In middle age, even getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night may increase your dementia risk in the future.

Scientists are beginning to probe the complex relationship between the brain changes involved in poor sleep and those in very early-stage Alzheimer’s. People who slept six hours or less per night in their 50s and 60s were more likely to develop dementia later in life. The findings suggest that inadequate sleep duration could increase dementia risk and emphasizes the importance of good sleep habits.

Nearly 60 percent of older adults have some kind of chronic sleep disturbance.

It’s long been known that people with Alzheimer’s often have sleep difficulties. Now scientists are probing the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s earlier in the disease process and in cognitively normal adults. They wonder if improving sleep with existing treatments might help memory and other cognitive functions—and perhaps delay or prevent Alzheimer’s.

Which comes first, poor sleep or Alzheimer’s?

The chicken-and-egg question is whether Alzheimer’s-related brain changes lead to poor sleep, or whether poor sleep somehow contributes to Alzheimer’s. Scientists believe the answer may be both.

Findings show that brain activity induced by poor sleep may influence Alzheimer’s-related brain changes, which begin years before memory loss and other disease symptoms appear.

What’s the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s?

Some recent studies suggest that poor sleep contributes to abnormal levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which in turn leads to the amyloid plaques found in the Alzheimer’s brain. These plaques might then affect sleep-related brain regions, further disrupting sleep.

Studies in humans have also addressed the relationship between sleep and biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease. One study found that in cognitively normal older adults, poor sleep quality (more time awake at night and more daytime naps) was associated with lower beta-amyloid levels in cerebrospinal fluid, a preclinical sign of Alzheimer’s. Another study, by researchers at NIA and Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD), found that healthy older adults who reported short sleep duration and poor sleep quality had more beta-amyloid in the brain than those without such sleep problems.

While many adults have problems sleeping, people with dementia often have an even harder time. Sleep disturbance may affect up to 25% of people with mild to moderate dementia and 50% of people with severe dementia. Sleep disturbances tend to get worse as dementia progresses in severity.

Obstructive sleep apnea is also more common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This potentially serious sleep disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep, possibly leading to a host of other health issues.

More studies to examine the value of a good night’s sleep in delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s disease are underway.

The Good News

Quality sleep is known to play an important role in concentration and learning, as well as mood and overall health. Quality sleep is something that can be improved. People with sleep problems should consult a sleep medicine physician so that they can function at their best. No matter what your age!

 

Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

 

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INSOMNIA -Why Can’t I Sleep?

INSOMNIA-Why can’t I sleep?

Insomnia is a problem for many during normal times, but factor in a pandemic and global unrest and it has become much more widespread. Insomnia is a sleep disorder where a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and/or they wake up too early in the morning. Insomnia can drain your energy level and mood, but also negatively impact your health, work performance and quality of life. How much sleep you need varies from person to person, but most adults need seven to eight hours a night.

Insomnia is characterized based on its duration. Acute Insomnia typically lasts short-term while Chronic Insomnia can last a long time.

Acute Insomnia

Lasts from one night to a few weeks and can come and go. It often happens due to life’s circumstances (Coronosomnia) or when you can’t fall asleep the night before an exam or after receiving stressful or bad news. Many people experience short term insomnia and it tends to resolve without any major treatment.

Chronic Insomnia

Happens at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or more. It can have many causes. Changes in the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, certain medications and medical disorders can lead to a long-term pattern of sleep deprivation.

Insomnia Symptoms may Include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

Common Causes of Insomnia Include:

  • Stress-Concerns about work, school, health, finances or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma also may lead to insomnia.
  • Travel or work schedule-Your circadian rhythms act as an internal clock, guiding such things as your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism and body temperature. Disrupting your body’s circadian rhythms can lead to insomnia. Causes include jet lag, working a late or early shift, or frequently changing shifts.
  • Poor sleep habits-Poor sleep habits include an irregular bedtime schedule, naps, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and using your bed for work, eating or watching TV. Computers, TVs, video games, smartphones or other screens just before bed can interfere with your sleep cycle.
  • Eating too much late in the evening-Having a light snack before bedtime is OK, but eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable. Many people also experience heartburn which may keep you awake.
  • Mental health issuesAnxiety disorders may disrupt your sleep. Insomnia often occurs with other mental health disorders as well.
  • Medications-Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, such as certain antidepressants and medications for asthma or blood pressure. Many over-the-counter medications such as some allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products can contain caffeine and other stimulants that can disrupt sleep.
  • Medical conditions- Examples of conditions linked with insomnia include chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Sleep-related disordersSleep apnea causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night, interrupting your sleep. Restless legs syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an almost irresistible desire to move them, which may prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol- Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeinated drinks are stimulants. Drinking them in the late afternoon or evening can keep you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine in tobacco products is another stimulant that can interfere with sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night.
  • Changes in sleep patterns- With age, your internal clock often advances, so you get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. But older people generally still need the same amount of sleep as younger people do.
  • Changes in health- Chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis or back problems, can interfere with sleep. Issues that increase the need to urinate during the night, such as prostate or bladder problems, can disrupt sleep. Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome become more common with age.

 If you are experiencing insomnia symptoms you should speak to your doctor or call Comprehensive Sleep Care Center at 703-214-0318 to see one of our sleep medicine specialists. We are now offering TeleMedicine visits to new and returning patients. Comprehensive Sleep Care Center offers expert diagnosis, treatment, and care for sleep disorders with the goal of providing a better night’s sleep and a better day ahead.