60 million Americans suffer from insomnia, the nightly struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. Research has already shown insomnia can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. What scientists at several universities are exploring is whether chronic insomnia may actually be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease or if it is only the result of it.

Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and Insomnia

There are a variety of research projects that have explored the possible link between sleep problems and Alzheimer’s. Several are especially interesting.

  • Johns Hopkins Sleep and Alzheimer’s Research

Researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at The Johns Hopkins University examined the sleep patterns of adults aged 70 and older. They found that older adults who slept fewer hours and had a poor quality of sleep also had higher levels of the brain plaque, Beta amyloid. This plaque has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

The team at Johns Hopkins is continuing to research whether or not treating older adult’s sleep problems might help to prevent Alzheimer’s.

  • Washington University Sleep Loss and Alzheimer’s Findings

Another study conducted at the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University also delved in to this issue. In their trial, 145 volunteers who were all considered to have normal cognitive function and were between the ages of 45 and 75 were recruited. 32 of the volunteers showed signs of preclinical Alzheimer’s but did not yet have any cognitive impairment.

Participants in the two-week long trial documented their sleep habits including naps. Each volunteer wore a sensor that allowed scientists to track their movement and probable quality of sleep. What they found was participants who were the worst sleepers were five times more likely to have preclinical Alzheimer’s disease than good sleepers.

Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Rest

If you are a Michigan senior or the caregiver of one and you know you fall in to the poor sleeper category, there are a few steps you can take that may help.

  • Get 30 minutes of exercise during the day. Try to work out early in the day. Exercising too close to bedtime can actually make your insomnia worse.
  • Have a consistent wake up and bed time each day, including weekends.
  • If you don’t already know how, learn to practice meditation, Pilates or some form of yoga. Each of these help you develop better breathing techniques which can help lower stress and improve sleep quality.
  • Make your bedroom a haven for rest and relaxation. That means keeping mobile devices stored in another room. Also keep the temperature cool. Experts typically recommend setting the thermostat to between 60 and 70 degrees.
  • Try to avoid eating or drinking anything with caffeine in it past noon. Caffeine can disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle.

Our final recommendation is to talk with your primary care physician if nothing helps you get a good night’s sleep. You may have a health condition like sleep apnea that may require professional intervention and treatment.

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