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How a Lack of Deep Sleep May Lead to Alzheimer’s

By Rick Cohen, 9:00 am on

Researchers are finding growing evidence that a lack of deep sleep can make the brain more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease. According to a new study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, the brain clears away toxins linked to dementia during sleep. Without sufficient deep sleep, the brain is not able to flush out all of the toxins, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and worsening cognitive damage.

During the study, researchers measured brain amyloid levels in 26 healthy seniors with no signs of dementia. The participants studied a list of word pairs just before going to sleep, and their brain wave activity was measured at night to gauge how deeply they slept. In the morning, participants were asked to recall the word pairs from the evening while their brain activity was monitored.

The study found that the volunteers who had the most brain amyloid deposits had the poorest sleep quality and performed worse on the memory test. Researchers believe the amyloid deposits impair deep sleep, which makes it harder to recover memories.

According to leading Milwaukee Alzheimer’s care providers, the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s has been studied for years as sleep disorders are common among people with dementia. Poor sleep, which may be caused by sleep apnea, insomnia, or another number of other conditions, is known to interfere with cognitive function and has long been thought to raise the risk of dementia. Researchers have also found in previous studies that deep or restorative sleep is necessary for long-term memory.

For many years, scientists believed that sleep disorders were common among Alzheimer’s patients because the disease destroyed parts of the brain that regulate sleep. A growing body of research suggests this isn’t true and beta-amyloid is really to blame. In a 2014 clinic study, researchers even found that a single night of sleep deprivation increased beta-amyloid levels in spinal fluid.

Researchers still aren’t sure which comes first, beta-amyloid plaques or sleep disorders, but research does suggest a vicious cycle in which high beta-amyloid levels worsen sleep, and poor sleep increases beta-amyloid levels in the brain.
Getting enough sleep every night isn’t just good for general well-being, it can also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and help the brain remove harmful toxins.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and could benefit from additional help at home, turn to Home Care Assistance. As a trusted provider of elder care in Milwaukee, it’s our mission to change the way the world ages, one client at a time. Our caregivers are expertly trained in senior care techniques, our Care Managers are on-call 24/7, and we never require clients to sign long-term contracts. To learn more, please call (414) 964-8000 and request a complimentary in-home consultation today.

The Connection Between Deep Sleep and Alzheimer's