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Is There a Link Between Sleep Problems / Insomnia and Alzheimer’s Disease?

Is There a Link Between Sleep Problems / Insomnia and Alzheimer’s Disease?

<!–[CDATA[Are you struggling to get to sleep or to stay asleep? You aren’t alone. An estimated 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. What might be troubling for insomniacs across the Hoosier state is a potential link between sleeplessness and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Research shows insomnia can be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s. What scientists at several universities are exploring is whether or not chronic insomnia might actually be a cause of this debilitating disease.

Exploring the Relationship Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Insomnia

There are several interesting research projects that have examined this topic. Two more prominent ones are from The Johns Hopkins University and Washington University.

  • Washington University Sleep Loss and Alzheimer’s Findings
    In a study at the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University scientists examined this issue. 145 volunteers considered to have normal cognitive function and were between the ages of 45 and 75 were selected. Thirty-two of the volunteers exhibited symptoms of preclinical Alzheimer’s but did not have any cognitive impairment. During the two-week trial, each participant documented their sleep habits and naps. They also wore a sensor to allow scientists to track their movement and estimate their quality of sleep. The study found that participants who were the worst sleepers were five times more likely to have preclinical Alzheimer’s than quality sleepers.
  • Johns Hopkins Sleep and Alzheimer’s Research
    In a separate study, scientists from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at The Johns Hopkins University looked at the sleep patterns of adults aged 70 and older. They found those who slept fewer hours and had poor sleep quality also had higher levels of the brain plaque, Beta amyloid. This plaque is believed to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The team at Johns Hopkins is continuing to research whether or not treating older adult’s sleep problems might help to prevent Alzheimer’s.

6 Sleep Tips for Seniors with Insomnia

If you are a senior with sleep problems, these suggestions might help you get a more restful night’s sleep.

  1. Limit caffeine: Try to limit the number of caffeinated beverages you drink each day. That is important because caffeine can disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle. If you suffer from sleep problems, it is best to avoid eating or drinking anything that contains caffeine in the afternoon or evening. 
  2. Learn better breathing techniques: Meditation, Chair Yoga, and Pilates help participants develop better deep breathing techniques. Those can help you relax and sleep better.
  3. Routine exercise: Getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week also helps improve sleep. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime though. It can rev up your energy level and make insomnia worse.
  4. Consistent sleep hours: Having a consistent wake up and bed time each day is another way to improve your quality of sleep. 
  5. Create a restful haven: Make your bedroom a haven for relaxation and rest. Keep mobile devices out of the bedroom. Also keep the thermostat in the room set to between 60 and 70 degrees.

Finally, if you have tried everything and still can’t get a good night’s rest, call your primary care physician. They can assess you for health conditions that may be preventing you from getting the sleep you need. Common ones include thyroid problems or sleep apnea.

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