Can Proper Sleep Habits Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

insomnia in the elderly

The week of March 2nd through the 8th has been declared Sleep Awareness Week by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep Awareness Week offers a way to inform the public and promote the importance of sleep through awareness campaigns and education programs. The foundation will share annual results of their “Sleep in America” poll at the start of the week and end with the clock change to Daylight Savings Time, where some Americans lose an hour of sleep.

Previous polls the Sleep Foundation has done involved looking at sleep in the modern family, exercise and sleep, adult sleep habits and styles, and sleep and the aging.

Sleep Issues in the Elderly

According to the Sleep Foundation’s 2003 poll regarding aging adults and sleep, 44% of seniors experience one or more types of insomnia at least a few times per week. When insomnia begins affecting your daily life, it’s time to see a doctor to discuss your symptoms. If left untreated, insomnia can start to take a serious toll on your health, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness and trouble concentrating, as well as increasing your risks for illness and accidents.

Some of the common sleep problems the elderly experience include:

  • Sleep apnea: Snoring is the most common cause of sleep disruption and can become worse with age. Loud snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, when you can actually stop breathing for 10-60 seconds. This is a serious condition and can lead to cardiovascular disease, headaches, memory loss and depression.
  • Restless leg syndrome: RLS is a neurological disorder in which sufferers experience tingling, creeping and overall unpleasant feelings in the legs.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease: When your stomach contents leak backwards into your esophagus, this can cause heartburn which can worsen when you lie down. This pain can make it difficult to sleep.

Other issues contributing to poor sleep in the elderly can be diabetes, asthma, and diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Sleep Habits for Alzheimer’s Prevention

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed that sleeping poorly and/or getting less sleep may contribute to an accelerated risk for Alzheimer’s disease. They found that poor sleeping habits were tied to increase in brain levels of beta-amyloid, the toxic protein that builds up and forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

The researchers studied the sleep habits of 70 seniors with an average age of 76 years old, finding that those who slept under five hours per night or did not sleep restfully had higher levels of the beta-amyloid protein in the brain over those who slept seven hours or more per night.

These findings are important because more research is needed to determine whether better sleep habits are beneficial for Alzheimer’s prevention. Sleep disturbances can be easily treated, so it’s important to mention issues with it to your doctor.

A good night’s sleep is critical for an overall healthy lifestyle, and can help lessen problems like memory and thinking issues as well as give you more energy for daily tasks- and it may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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Disclaimer: The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice.

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