Could sleep be more important to our health than diet or exercise?
Last quarter we started a new feature dedicated to sharing expert opinions about ways that might help people live healthier, longer lives. Our focus is to pass along ideas to discuss with your doctor to help battle the four main diseases of aging: dementia, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Important – Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your health routine!
A growing body of research suggests a profound link between sleep patterns and the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cognitive decline and memory loss, has been associated with disrupted sleep and inadequate rest. The intricate relationship between sleep and Alzheimer's risk is multifaceted, involving various correlations that underscore the importance of quality sleep for brain health.
During critical phases of deep sleep, cells shrink allowing spinal fluid to rinse out much of the metabolic debris that collects during waking hours. Healthy brain activity eliminates many of these toxins, including beta-amyloid – a protein known to be involved in Alzheimer's pathology during deep sleep. Inadequate sleep, whether in duration or quality, may allow for increases in oxidative stress as well as the impairment of these essential cleansing functions, allowing the accumulation of harmful substances, like beta-amyloid, in the brain.
Also, disruptions in circadian rhythms, the body's internal clock regulating sleepwake cycles, may contribute to an increased risk of Alzheimer's. The synchronization of circadian rhythms is vital for optimal brain function, and disturbances in this rhythm have been associated with cognitive impairment.
Understanding and addressing the interplay between sleep and Alzheimer's risk is opening new avenues for preventive strategies. Taking steps to build healthy sleep habits are becoming critical steps in mitigating the risk of Alzheimer's disease, offering a promising approach to promote brain health and overall wellbeing.
More information can be found in “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep,” published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (https://bit.ly/3ZPsyQc).