Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sleep and the Dementia Connection

If you are concerned about reducing your risk of getting dementia, one step you may wish to take is to get enough sleep.   According to Dr. Bryce Mander, PhD of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California in Irvine, sleep is essential to the formation (encoding), consolidation and recall of memories.  In fact, more than two-thirds of people with Alzheimer's Disease have a history of at least one type of sleep disorder, usually sleep apnea or insomnia.

Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's Disease

Lack of adequate sleep is a serious issue in people with the type of of dementia known as Alzheimer's Disease.  Researchers have discovered that having either sleep apnea or insomnia may not only increase your Alzheimer's Disease risk, but it may lower the age of onset of Alzheimer's Disease.  They have also discovered that treating sleep disorders can actually delay the age of onset for Alzheimer's Disease.

In addition, sleep apnea can increase your diabetes risk; insomnia may increase your risk of depression.  Both of these conditions are linked to a higher rate of dementia.

If simply getting more restful sleep at night is able to postpone the development of Alzheimer's Disease and other types of dementia, it can be life changing to see your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping.

Medical Intervention Can Improve Sleep Quality

What can you do if you do not believe you are getting enough sleep?  Your first step should be to consult your personal physician.  You may even want to have a sleep study done to help determine the specific reason behind your sleep problems.  There are medical interventions, such as a CPAP machine, which could significantly improve your quality of sleep.

You may also wish to talk to your doctor about other health issues which could be interrupting your sleep, such as loud snoring or the need to wake up frequently to go to the bathroom.  Anything we can do to improve our quality and quantity of sleep can help us age better. 

Lifestyle Changes May Improve Sleep Quality

In addition to seeing your doctor, there may be changes you can make in your lifestyle which will improve your sleep quality.  Many people sabotage their sleep without realizing their lack of adequate rest could be causing other health problems, not only dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Below is a list of activities you can try in order to improve your sleep quality:

*  Maintain a fairly consistent time to go to bed and wake up.
*  Have a goal of sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night; it should take you 20 minutes or less to fall asleep once you are in bed.
*  Set a relaxing routine in the evening, including reading, meditation or taking a warm bath.
*  Avoid using your bedroom as a place to watch television, play on your computer or engage in similar activities.
*  Keep your bedroom cool, but not freezing.  Cool temperatures promote better sleep quality than a warm or hot room.
*  Bright light suppresses your natural melatonin. Have muted lights at night, preferably in red or orange tones.  Avoid the blue and green light which you get from phones and televisions.
*  Turn off electronic devices within 30 minutes of bedtime.
*  Do not eat a large meal too close to bedtime. Eat as early in the evening as you comfortably can.
*  Live a generally good lifestyle, including exercise and a healthy diet.  This will improve your sleep quality.
*  Avoid caffeine after 3:00 p.m.
*  Avoid alcoholic beverages in the evening.  They contribute to poor sleep quality.  You may fall asleep quickly, but will wake up in the middle of the night when the alcohol wears off.

The bottom line is that everyone should make it a priority to get at least seven hours of high quality sleep a night if they wish to lower their risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's Disease.

Readers may also want to use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to check out other articles in the Medical Concerns category of this blog to learn more about techniques for reducing your risk of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, including following the MIND diet or the relationship between exercise and dementia.

Want to know more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more?  This blog contains hundreds of articles on those topics, as well.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is scheduled to be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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