Better Quality Sleep Could Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s
Although there are still a lot of open questions in the science of sleep, it is difficult to overstate the importance of high quality sleep as a factor in overall health. Not only is complete rest an important contributor to mental development and good health early in life, its importance may also grow throughout a person’s life, and a variety of health risks become more prevalent.
One such risk is the possible onset of Alzheimer’s disease. And of course for many people, including those with a family history of the disease, this is a particularly frightening threat to future quality of life. Researchers are still hard at work determining the causes of and risk factors for Alzheimer’s, as well as the lifestyle changes that could diminish the likelihood of developing it. But some recent research suggests that improvements in sleep quality could improve prospects for people who already have genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
The study was authored by Barbara B. Bendlin of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it found that people who reported sleep problems also had buildup of biological markers for Alzheimer’s in their spinal fluid.
As with all such studies, it is important to note that the relationship between the two relevant factors isn’t entirely clear. It is possible that increased risk factors for the disease cause people to have sleep problems, instead of vice-versa. Nevertheless, Bendlin noted in an interview with Science Daily that “previous evidence has shown that sleep may influence the development or progression of Alzheimer's disease in various ways.”
Bendlin also suggested that behaviors promoting sleep quality could constitute “modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s.” It seems fair to say that, pending further research, it would be wise to pay close attention to the quality of your sleep if you have a family history or genetic predisposition to the disease. As this blog will continue to make clear to its readers, there are common sense interventions that you can undertake to improve your sleep quality. And even if it turns out that these will not reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s as your age, they will help you to monitor the extent of your risk while also having a positive impact on overall health.
Sleep problems are nothing to thumb your nose at, and the possibility of increased Alzheimer’s risk is only one reason for this. If you have a hard time sleeping through the night or waking up in the morning, take some of the steps outlined in our previous blog post. And if problems persist, talk to your doctor.