Sleep well. That’s something I often say to my children and grandchildren when speaking with them in the evening. Studies show how important sleep is for us in so many ways. Now new studies are linking the need for sleep and the reduction of Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists have documented numerous connections between sleep loss and memory loss. Chronic sleep deprivation causes injury to parts of the brain that are essential in maintaining attention and forming and storing memories.

Currently, there is an interest in how this relates to Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s tend to waken often through the night. At this point it is uncertain whether the poor sleep contributes toward a cause of the disease or is only a symptom. Dr Erik Musiek, assistant professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis says that new research suggests that sleep and circadian rhythm problems early in life may contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s and accelerate the disease.

Studies show sleep-deprived mice accumulate greater amounts of beta-amyloid plaque, a substance believed to damage and destroy brain cells in those with Alzheimer’s. And one finding showed the spinal fluid of mice swirled around the brains while sleeping, cleaning out the protein substance. If this is true for humans, it would greatly reinforce the need for sleep. It would offer a solution in the reduction of the disease.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

(For an excellent article on this topic, see the November 25, 2015 Chicago Tribune article, “Linking sleep and Alzheimer’s” by Mark Taylor.)

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