Researchers have found many links between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease over the years. While it was once believed that sleep disorders are so common among Alzheimer’s patients due to brain damage from the disease, a new study lends evidence to the theory that these sleep disturbances are caused by beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. According to The Woodlands home care professionals, research also indicates that sleep and beta-amyloid levels are part of a vicious cycle: Poor sleep contributes to higher beta-amyloid levels that damage the brain and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s while rising beta-amyloid levels lead to poor sleep quality.
In a recent study on how sleep contributes to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers measured beta-amyloid levels in the brains of 26 healthy seniors who had no signs of memory impairment. The study participants studied word pairs before bed and their brain wave activity was measured during the night to document sleep quality. When they awoke, the participants were asked to recall the words they read before sleep while their brain activity was recorded.
According to the researchers, study participants with the highest brain amyloid levels had the poorest sleep quality and did the worst on the memory test. It’s believed the high amyloid levels were responsible for impairing sleep, which in turn impacted cognitive function.
The study found a new pathway through which AD causes memory decline and it’s related to the role of sleep on the human brain. During deep sleep, the brain actually removes toxins that are associated with dementia. This happens through a process called the glymphatic system during which the cerebrospinal fluid–which is normally outside the brain–recirculates through the brain through outside blood vessels. People who get poor sleep are not able to flush out the toxins, which lead to worsening sleep quality, memory impairment, and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
Currently, researchers are enrolling people in a similar study to detect changes in the brain that indicate when the glymphatic system is turned on.
While this research shows promise, if your aging loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he or she will benefit from immediate help. To learn more about Alzheimer’s care in The Woodlands, reach out to Home Care Assistance at 832-412-1345. Our compassionate and experienced caregivers can help with a wide variety of daily tasks, promote your loved one’s mental and emotional health, and provide stable companionship.