Alzheimer's Disease and Sleep

To put it mildly, Alzheimer’s Disease (Alzheimer’s) is a horrible ailment. This neurodegenerative condition has a slow start. As time progresses, the disease unfortunately worsens. One of the first visible symptoms of Alzheimer’s is memory problems. A person at the early onset of Alzheimer’s will have difficulty remembering things, especially things that happened most recently. Memory loss worsens, leading to dementia, which can then result in hostility. How is Alzheimer’s related to sleep? There are actually two sleep-related aspects to review. The first being can a lack of sleep cause Alzheimer’s? The second item is how is sleep affected in a person with Alzheimer’s?

 

The University of California published an article in June of 2019 finding that people aged 50 to 69 who have declining sleep quality are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. For this reason, they recommend that a person who has issues sleeping should report this to their medical professional. It’s important to improve sleep quality and possibly decrease the chances of developing this disease. Additional studies have been done which looked at elevated levels of beta-amyloid. In these studies they are still trying to determine if these elevated levels are an indicative risk factor of Alzheimer’s. It’s interesting to think that Alzheimer’s could be hereditary and that a lack of sleep can be a contributing factor.

 

This brings us to the relationship of sleep and a person affected with Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, the sleep of the afflicted worsens. The quality of their sleep decreases, which makes them feel sleep deprived. They also experience less deep sleep, which is the most restorative of all sleep phases. Sometimes a person will nap during the day, which contributes to poor sleep at night. If they have other medical conditions (such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or depression) this also may exacerbate their poor sleep.

 

How can one cope with Alzheimer’s and sleep? There are a few modifications one can make and habits one can adopt that can assist in getting better sleep:

 

  • Stick to a regular routine, including meal times, wake times, and bed times.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants or mood modifiers.
  • Keep the bedroom comfortable, including keeping it at a pleasant

    temperature.
  • If necessary, talk to a medical professional about medication(s) that can assist in getting better sleep.

 

Though Alzheimer’s presents many challenges related to sleep, this is not an insurmountable problem. Seeing as studies indicate that better sleep now may help lessen your chances of developing this disease later, maybe it’s time to go to bed and get some of those much needed zzz’s.

 

 

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