Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia that affects memory loss. According to the Center for Disease Control, as many as five million people across the country are suffering from Alzheimer’s and while younger people can be diagnosed with it, it is significantly more common after the age of 60. Alzheimer’s is also one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country.
Age and family history are two of the best known indicators of an individual’s chances of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, scientists are finding more evidence that suggests high blood pressure and cholesterol can increase your chances of getting the disease. There is still no known cure for the disease and little to do in regards to treatment other than slow the disease.
While there is more to be learned about Alzheimer’s disease, a recent study suggests that insomnia and sleep deprivation could play a part in increasing a person’s chances of getting the disease.
Sleep Deprivation and Alzheimer’s
While insomnia is a side effect that is associated with those already diagnosed and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. It can also be a warning sign to those not diagnosed with the disease. A study done by the scientific journal Neurology, found that those who got less REM sleep were more at risk to be affected by dementia-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“After adjustments for age and sex, lower REM sleep percentage and longer REM sleep latency were both associated with a higher risk of incident dementia. Each percentage reduction in REM sleep was associated with approximately a 9% increase in the risk of incident dementia,” the study said.
REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, sleep makes up about 25 percent of your sleep and is critically important to your health.
Similarly, sleep deprivation, in general, may affect your risk of Alzheimer’s. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, lack of sleep can lead to an increase in beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product that found in the fluid between brain cells and a build-up of beta-amyloid can clump together to form amyloid plaques which can cause problems with communication between neurons.
The NIH said that studies suggest sleep plays a role in clearing beta-amyloid out of the brain.
A study published in April in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that after 31 hours of sleep deprivation beta-amyloid increased about 5 percent in test subjects.
“This research provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterizing the pathology of Alzheimer's disease,” says Dr. George F. Koob, director of National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
However, the study was small and only included 20 participants, there will have to be future studies with a larger participant pool in order to find something more concrete.
“Even though our sample was small, this study demonstrated the negative effect of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid burden in the human brain. Future studies are needed to assess the generalizability to a larger and more diverse population,” said Dr. Shokri-Kojori who led the research.
Insomnia is a common disorder, it affects women more than men. It can happen at all ages, however it is more likely to occur in older adults.
Insomnia is more common among people who:
- Have a lot of stress
- Have issues with depression or emotional distress
- Work at night or have major changes in their work hours
- Have an inactive lifestyle
Despite these setbacks, there are certain measures you can take to help you fall asleep at night.
Falling and Staying Asleep
Falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night is one way to prevent the risk of beta-amyloid build-up. However, it’s not always that easy. Acute insomnia is a problem for a lot of people across the country while chronic insomnia affects about 10 percent of the population. According to the NIH, here are some initiatives you can take to ensure that you get a healthy seven hours of sleep including:
- Reducing use of tobacco, caffeine and other stimulants, the effects of which can last up to eight hours
- Certain cold and allergy medications can inhibit sleep, consult your doctor if you are experiencing these issues while taking medication
- Scheduling daily exercise five to six hours before bed can aid in falling and staying asleep
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly by making it cool and avoiding bright lights, try to limit possible distractions like television and pets before bed
While some believe alcohol is helpful in falling asleep, it can actually have a negative effect in that sleep may be lighter than normal causing tossing and turning throughout the night.
Seeing a Doctor
The best thing to do if you or a loved one is going through sleeping problems or insomnia while dealing is to see a doctor to discuss your options. According to the Alzheimer's Association, although most experts believe that going a non-drug route to treat insomnia among Alzheimer’s patients is the best path, medical professionals can still provide the best advice and recommendations for what to do about each specific problem.
For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease, visit the alzheimers.gov. There you will find information on up-to-date research and discoveries on the disease as well as information on care-giving and dealing with a diagnosis.
If you have an older adult in your life living with Alzheimer’s, Landmark Senior Living communities is here to help you. Our assisted living facilities and medically certified staff are able to help senior citizens as they transition into a new chapter of their lives. At Landmark Senior Living, our goal is to create the ideal living environment for every one of our senior housing residents. The broad range of activities and events at our facilities will help you to take care of your mental and physical health.