There is evidence to suggest that exercise, a healthy diet, and lifelong learning can all help to prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s disease. But did you know that regularly getting enough sleep could also help you maintain a healthy brain? New research has shed a light on how sleep deprivation may lead to Alzheimer’s. Let’s talk about these findings and discuss what they may mean for you.
Lack of Sleep and Brain Damage
There are a couple of different proteins in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s. As long as the proteins function properly and don’t exist in large amounts, they’re harmless. However, when they clump together, they can move through the brain and cause serious damage to the tissue that they pass through. Recent research has discovered that sleep deprivation increases levels of one of those types of protein, tau. Studies in mice have shown that sleeplessness also accelerates the speed at which clumps of tau spread through the brain.
The relationship between brain damage and sleeplessness is more than a mere correlation. The researchers sought to confirm that the lack of rest was directly linked to the tau problem, not just existing alongside it as a result of the increased stress that sleeplessness causes. The researchers thus injected mice with a compound to keep them awake for an extended period of time without raising their stress levels. They found that even without the added stress, the sleep deprivation still led to an increase in tau.
What It Means for You
You have every reason to make sure you get enough sleep on a daily basis. If your shuteye isn’t what it should be, try making adjustments to improve the quality and quantity of your rest. For example, you might try not drinking alcohol before bed, investing in a more comfortable mattress, or using relaxation techniques to help keep your mind away from daily worries.
What if, despite your efforts to get enough sleep, you still find that you’re often tired? You may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a dangerous disorder that disrupts breathing at night and makes it difficult for its victims to enjoy truly rejuvenating sleep. It thus may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments available for OSA sufferers. Oral appliance therapy or a CPAP machine may be all you need to breathe easier at night. After you get diagnosed with OSA, a consultation with a sleep medicine expert can give you the opportunity to explore your treatment options and get on the road to better rest.
Are you getting enough sleep? Never forget that your nightly shuteye could be a key to maintaining your long-term brain health.
About the Author
Dr. Mitch Conditt is a dentist who has spent much of his career helping patients who suffer from sleep apnea. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Craniofacial Dental Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain. He belongs to several other prestigious organizations as well. If you would like to talk to Dr. Conditt about treatment for your OSA, contact our practice at 817-527-8500.