Insufficient or poor-quality sleep may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a health advisory from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Their advisory is based on the results of epidemiological studies that have shown a possible link between chronic sleep deprivation or low-quality sleep and the gradual formation of amyloid-beta in the brain. Over the course of many years, amyloid-beta accumulation may correspond with changes in the brain that are responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease (Practical Neurology, 2018).
Improving sleep quality in the long term may therefore be an important factor in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as one ages. Actively addressing poor or insufficient sleep not only reduces stress, inflammation and other health issues that improve quality of life but may also enhance longevity by mitigating the risk of a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. Individuals who have been dealing with chronic sleep issues should consider seeking treatment from a qualified healthcare professional, as this could prevent the onset of the disease later in life. It is also critical to understand that changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s development can occur decades before the onset of any disease symptoms. The earlier any risk factors such as poor sleep can be addressed, the lower the likelihood that plaque formation and inflammation can take hold in the brain.
The advisory was also based on research that looked at poor sleep quality related to obstructive sleep apnea, which is a common cause of sleep disturbances due to frequent breathing difficulties that lead to low oxygen levels in the brain. People with untreated sleep apnea may be at a particularly higher risk of developing amyloid-beta, since they not only deal with sleep complications on a nightly basis but also inadequate concentrations of oxygen in the brain.
Additional research and funding have been recommended by the AASM to investigate the relationship between chronic sleep issues and the development of dementia. Moreover, they have called on federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging to prioritize funding for this research (Practical Neurology, 2018).
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American Academy of Sleep Medicine Issues Advisory: Insufficient Sleep May Increase Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Practical Neurology. (2018, July). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from http://practicalneurology.com/news/?id=51658¢er=37