Sleep and Alzheimer’s Prevention Wednesday, Dec 2 2015 

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.)

Get Some Sleep Thursday, Feb 7 2013 

Lisa and Mark's Property.Bonfire.3.August, 2011My mother passed away nearly 14 years ago but I can still hear her telling me to get some sleep. Sleep is such a simple, basic need and yet one that we have little time for. Television, computers, video games, and smart phones leave us overstimulated at the end of the day and unable to attain a peaceful rest.

The National Sleep Foundation states that research shows lack of sleep can lead to serious health consequences. Some of these include:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • A greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react, or remember new information
  • Compromised mood, performance ,and alertness resulting in injury or death.

Personal sleep needs vary based on several factors, two of which are basal need and sleep debt. Basal sleep need is the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance, which varies slightly from person to person. Sleep debt is the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits and sickness.

The average basal need for healthy adults is believed to be seven to eight hours every night. Should a sleep debt come into play, more sleep is required for a period of time.

Surprisingly, nine hours or more of sleep may also be harmful to your health.

So listen to Mom and get some sleep – but not too much. If you’re one of those who toss and turn the night away, try turning off the electronics earlier. Instead, read a good book, relax by a fire,  or dim the lights and listen to soft music the hour before bedtime.

©Mary K. Doyle

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