If you’ve ever cared for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you know how difficult night times can be. Despite feeling sleepy all day, he may often sleep in fragmented bursts at night and be prone to getting out of bed several times a night.
Now researchers are beginning to link sleep problems with Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest stages of the disease, even before memory loss or other cognitive problems occur. Rather than being a side effect from other problems associated with the disease, scientists are beginning to realize the ways Alzheimer’s disease plaques—clumps of amyloid-beta proteins that Alzheimer’s brains cannot properly get rid—disrupt proper sleep.
One new study linked even early Alzheimer’s disease to sleep disruption. People with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease had poorer sleep efficiency (80.4%) than those without (83.7%). This means that both groups spent a similar amount of time in bed, but people with Alzheimer’s disease slept less. And the worst sleepers, those with less than 75% efficiency, were five times more likely to have preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers suspect that the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease works in both directions. Alzheimer’s disease causes sleep problems and sleep problems cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleeping problems occur often as people age. The cause is multi-faceted, ranging from poor lifestyle choices and changes in body. Nonetheless, if you have been experiencing sleep problems along with other changes, it may be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Contact your doctor or your local Alzheimer Society.
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