How Deep Sleep Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease has been in the headlines a lot recently. As new brain research is published, we are all learning more about this neurodegenerative disorder and important underlying factors. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and we don’t yet know exactly what causes it, but scientists continue to get closer to providing some important answers.
Scientists have been studying the connection between sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s disease for a number of years now. Evidence has pointed out the fact that poor sleep is related to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Yet it has been difficult for researchers to pinpoint the direction of the relationship between sleep and the disease; does bad sleep contribute to the risk for Alzheimer’s or does the disease itself cause poor sleep? Which problem comes first? Which causes the other?
Some of the latest research coming out about how the body maintains brain health seems to reveal some important information in this search for answers about Alzheimer’s.
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Sleep Protects the Brain
In recent years, scientists have been diving deeper into conditions including insomnia, sleep apnea, and sleep deprivation. Their work has uncovered a clear relationship between sleep, or better – lack of sleep – and dementia. Sleep seems to play a powerful role in protecting the brain over time. And we know that it is essential for clear thinking, memory, concentration, and healthy brain function.
Now, a study published in Science journal tells us that during deep sleep, brain waves work to clear away waste and toxins. Electroencephalogram (EEG) data showed particularly slow neural activity occurring while the body sleeps. Especially during the NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, long, slow electrical waves sweep through the neurons. MRI scans also showed that blood flow decreases around the brain before each slow wave, allowing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to wash over it and carry away harmful metabolic waste. The study found that this automatic cleaning process happens as often as every 20 seconds.
The authors of the study combined this new information with what has already been discovered in this field. It’s been found that the low-frequency waves of NREM sleep help support healthy brain function and strengthen memory retention. We also understand that patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have smaller and fewer of these slow brain waves. So, the conclusion is that a lack of deep sleep can inhibit this natural cleaning process, damaging the brain over time and leading to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Sleep May Help Prevent Neurological Disease
The rhythmic cleansing process triggered by deep sleep appears to clear away toxins that negatively impact brain health in the long term. This includes the harmful accumulation of amyloid beta and tau proteins that have previously been connected to Alzheimer’s disease.
Stemming from these findings, researchers now believe that sleep disturbances and disorders may be a cause, or at least a contributing factor, to cognitive decline and degenerative diseases affecting the brain. Reversely, getting regular, good quality sleep is thought to provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and memory loss.
Insomnia as a Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s and Memory Loss
The current research is supported by other evidence showing that older adults with insomnia are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those with chronic insomnia experience more disruption to sleep-wake cycles than the average aging person. It seems clear, therefore, that this type of sleep disorder makes it even more difficult for the brain to clear away the metabolic toxins that cause cognitive decline.
Questions Remain about the Link Between Lack of Sleep and Alzheimer’s
Further research is needed to understand if people can actually decrease the risk of developing the disease by getting better rest. Future studies aim to provide valuable information for those who are predisposed to progressive neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s. There is hope that this type of research will help us to find effective treatments and preventive measures to these common, yet devastating conditions.
Good Sleep Is Key for Good Health
New information about the importance of sleep health is coming out every day. It’s clear that quality rest is an integral part of ensuring a long, healthy life. If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, testing and treatment options are available to help you manage the symptoms and feel better.
Contact Sleep Health Solutions of Ohio to book a free consultation today.