Many American’s are effected by Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it be a relative or even themselves. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million by the year 2050. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and it is the only top 10 cause of death that has no cure, cannot be prevented or even slowed. However, research has shown that sleep deprivation increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Before we dive into how sleep deprivation can correlate to Alzheimer’s let’s talk about what the disease is. So what is Alzheimer’s disease? According to the Alzheimer’s Association it is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior that usually gets worse overtime and can begin to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging but the greatest known risk factor is increasing age. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 years or older. Though it is not just a disease of older people, about 200,000 American’s under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Symptoms develop slowly and begins with short term memory problems. Overtime these symptoms worsen and patients lose more of their mental capabilities. Other symptoms include forgetfulness, incontinence, speech problems, inability to dress, bathe or groom oneself, wandering and getting lost, losing items and depression.
Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product found in fluid between brain cells. A build-up of this waste product has been linked to impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s the beta-amyloid clumps together and forms plaques that hinder communication between neurons. Research suggests that sleep plays a role in clearing beta-amyloid out of the brain. A study done for the journal of the American Academy of Neurology found that people who get less REM sleep or dream stage sleep may be at a higher risk of developing dementia. In the deepest stage of sleep the brain cleans itself out of plaque and other toxins that trigger Alzheimer’s.
However, not everyone who experiences problems sleeping should worry about developing dementia as there is no clear cause and effect relationship as of now.
“Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/alzheimers-disease-and-sleep/page/0/1.
“Facts and Figures.” Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures.
LaMotte, Sandee. “Can Poor Sleep Lead to Alzheimer’s or Dementia?” CNN, Cable News Network, 23 Aug. 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/07/05/health/alzheimers-sleep-dementia-study/index.html.
“Sleep Deprivation Increases Alzheimer’s Protein.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 May 2018, www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sleep-deprivation-increases-alzheimers-protein.
What Is Alzheimer’s?” Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers.