If You Don’t Snooze, You May Have a Lot to LoseTossing and turning even one night can leave you exhausted and irritable the next day. Being sleep deprived on a regular basis may lead to bad news for our brains.

How is sleep linked to Alzheimer’s?

Sleep research shows our brains remain busy while we sleep – doing repairs, boosting the immune system and creating long-term memories. During deep sleep, excess amyloid protein- the protein associated with the formation of plaques in Alzheimer’s disease- is cleared from the brain. More evidence is mounting that poor quality sleep is linked to a decline in memory and thinking abilities and leads to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.

In a recent study, researchers monitored the sleep of 17 healthy adults for several days. They concluded just one night’s disruption of quality sleep resulted in elevated beta-amyloid protein. And poor sleep over many days resulted in an increase in tau – another protein found in the brains and spinal fluid of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

What about sleep apnea?

Another recent study showed that adults with sleep-disordered breathing – sleep-related breathing problems such as sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome – may face an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment (e.g., forgetfulness, trouble learning new things, difficulty concentrating).

More studies are needed to further explore the link between sleep and brain health, but we do know sleep is as essential as nutrition and exercise in keeping you and your brain healthy.

What can you do if a good night’s sleep has become only a dream?

If you have trouble sleeping…

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning – even on weekends.
  • Exercise regularly but do not do it within three hours of bedtime.
  • Stay away from caffeine late in the day.
  • Don’t use electronic devices in the bedroom. The light from your laptop or cell phone may keep you awake.
  • Don’t eat a large meal close to bedtime and remember that alcohol can disrupt sleep.  
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet to avoid being awakened.

If you have or think you have a sleeping disorder…

Tell your doctor. Symptoms such as not feeling refreshed even after a full night’s sleep, snoring, or feeling sleepy during the day can indicate a sleep disorder. Over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills are only for occasional use and don’t promote quality sleep. Your doctor can help you get the correct diagnosis and treatment to get you on your way to better sleep.

For more helpful tips on getting the best possible sleep, visit healthybrains.org/pillar-sleep.

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