What Is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea, which means failure to breathe during sleep, can be obstructive or non-obstructive. Non-obstructive or central apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the breathing muscles that its time to get active. In obstructive apnea, breathing fails because of a relaxed airway that fails to open up despite the brains insistence. Eventually, sometimes after more than a minute without breathing, the brain sounds its alarms urgently enough to jolt the muscles of breathing back into action. Sometimes this wakes the sleeper, but more often the periods of apnea and gasping serve only to rob sleep of its restful and restorative quality. A respiratory infection or excessive alcohol use can also interfere with breathing during sleep. Chronic and severe apnea, however, is a prolonged, debilitating condition.
Top Tips For Restful Sleep
Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Create a bedtime routine and try to head to bed and wake up at the same time each timeeven on weekends.
Avoid Caffeinated Drinks at Night
Switch out caffeinated drinks like coffee and black tea for alternatives with less caffeine, like white tea, decaf or water, at least 8 hours before you plan to go to bed.
Keep the Bedroom Dark
Close the curtains and turn off the lights to reduce light and noise.
Try to exercise regularly throughout the week, but avoid exercising too closely before going to bed.
Avoid Screens an Hour Before Bedtime
Artificial light from electronics emits blue light which delays the release of melatonin, a key hormone that signals tiredness to the brain. This can make it harder to fall asleep.
1. Livingston, G., Sommerlad, A., Orgeta, V., Costafreda, S. G., Huntley, J., Ames, D., … & Cooper, C. . Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet, 390, 2673-2734.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. NIH. Retrieved from
3. Scientists Discover Previously Unknown Cleansing System in Brain. . Retrieved from
4. What is Alzheimer’s?. . Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from . alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers
10. Tips for better sleep. . CDC. Retrieved from
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As dementia progresses, sleep problems along with other difficult dementia symptoms tend to get worse. This may be a good time to evaluate whether you need additional support to help ensure your loved ones health and safety and your own. Learning what to expect at each stage of dementia can help you plan for adequate care.
Heres what you should know when caring for someone with dementia and sleep problems:
- Dont use physical restraints. Many people believe its best to restrain their loved ones in bed at night to prevent wandering. This may do more harm than good. Instead, if you have a bed with guard rails, raise the rails. This may help to deter them from climbing out of bed and wandering.
- Dont do it alone. Consider taking shifts with another family member or looking into respite care. Respite care, or short-term care, gives you a chance to take a break while providing a safe environment for your loved one.
- Reduce stimulation. To allow for a calming, soothing environment, avoid loud noises or a lot of activity during the evening and night.
- Prioritize your health and rest. Taking care of a loved one with dementia and sleep problems may take a toll on your own mental health. Consider getting help from family members or exploring other care options, such as memory care, which provides 24-hour specialized care for people with memory loss.
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Can You Recover From Chronic Sleep Deprivation
Sleep disorders can be hard to fix, and it may require motivation and major lifestyle adjustments to improve. But there are steps you can take to start sleeping better. And if youre worried about chronic diseases related to sleep deprivation like dementia it does seem likely that improving your sleep could help protect you.
First, its always important to discuss sleep issues with your healthcare provider. Youll want to make sure that there are no medical conditions, other sleep disorders , or medications that could be contributing to your sleep issues.
Youll also want to work on developing good sleep habits also referred to as sleep hygiene to start working toward better sleep. Consider taking some of these steps to improve your sleep hygiene:
Set a schedule. Get into bed and get out of bed at the same time each day.
If you cant fall asleep after about 20 minutes, get up for a while before trying to sleep again.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
Dont nap during the day.
Set a bedtime routine by using your five senses to alert your brain that sleep time is approaching. For example, take a hot bath, light a candle, use a specific face wash, or listen to a relaxing playlist you can get creative with this one.
Move your body during the day, but try not to do strenuous exercise less than 4 hours before bedtime.
A Growing Body Of Research Says Yes
This article is part of an ongoing series about lifestyle factors you can modify to help lower your risk of dementia. Previously weve discussed the relationship between dementia and exercise, dementia and nutrition, and dementia and social interaction.
Another important lifestyle habit that is important to reduce your risk for dementia is restful sleep.
In a landmark report, the Lancet Commission determined that around one-third of dementia cases worldwide can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle.1 Effective dementia prevention could transform the future global health outlook and vastly improve the quality of life as we continue to live longer.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, every 65 seconds.
Today, 5.7 million Americans live with this disease. By 2050, that number is predicted to reach 14 million.2 Alzheimer’s is a frightening and challenging disease, and the news that lifestyle factors play a significant role offers hope to reduce human suffering.
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Tips To Improve Sleep And Cognitive Performance
Anyone who feels that they are experiencing cognitive impairment or excessive daytime sleepiness that affects their thinking should talk with their doctor as a first step. A doctor can help identify or rule out any other conditions, including sleep disorders, that may be causing these symptoms. They can also discuss strategies for a plan to get better sleep.
Many approaches to improving sleep start with healthy sleep hygiene. By optimizing your bedroom environment and your everyday habits and routines, you can eliminate many common barriers to sleep. Setting a regular bedtime and sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evening, and minimizing electronics in the bedroom are a few examples of sleep hygiene tips that can make it easier to rest well every night.
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Effects In Children And Teenagers
Sleep deprivation can affect both children and adults. Children need more sleep, and not getting it may lead to behavioral and growth problems. They can even hallucinate.
Adolescents who are night owls with delayed sleep phase syndrome may have difficulty meeting their sleep needs due to a delay in the onset of sleep and required wake times for school.
Falling asleep late, and waking too early, may lead to a cumulative sleep loss. This may be compensated for with excessive sleeping on weekends or even nappingor lead to problems.
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What Are The Short
The potential short-term impacts of sleep on cognitive performance are wide-ranging.
Most people are familiar with the daytime effects that result from a night of poor sleep, such as drowsiness and fatigue. In response, a person may inadvertently nod off for a few seconds, which is known as a microsleep.
While a night of disrupted sleep may be inconvenient, the resulting daytime sleepiness can cause serious cognitive impairments. It reduces a persons attention, as well as their learning and processing. A lack of sleep has also been found to induce effects that are similar to being drunk, which slows down thinking and reaction time.
Just struggling to stay alert can, in itself, cause sweeping problems for thinking, but research also indicates that there are selective impacts of poor sleep on mental function. This means that insufficient or disrupted sleep causes more harm to certain parts of the brain with distinct effects on different types of cognition.
Studies of the selective impact of sleep on types of thinking do not always generate consistent results. This may be the result of differences in the people in the studies, how their sleep is changed in the research, or how cognitive effects are measured. Nevertheless, there are some general findings about ways that poor sleep may impair intellectual performance.
Recovery Sleep Ends Hallucinations
Fortunately, these symptoms resolve when adequate sleep is obtained. So if you see something that isnt there during a period of sleep deprivation, don’t fret: it might simply be time to get some rest.
There is considerable evidence that just one night of adequate recovery sleep can be enough to reverse the various effects of sleep deprivation.
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How To Get Dementia Patients To Sleep At Night: 8 Tips For Better Sleep
If youre caring for a family member with dementia, improving sleep is probably a priority. Adequate rest can improve your loved ones mood, health, and quality of life and your own. Heres how you can help your family member with dementia get a better nights sleep.
Sleep Deprivation And Neurological Disorders
Inadequate rest caused by not getting enough sleep or a good quality of sleep can and does impact your overall wellness and health. Research has shown, for instance, that sleep deprivation lowers the immune system, decreases cognitive function and memory, and disrupts other normal functions such as emotional wellbeing.
In one study, for example, volunteers were deprived of sleep and then asked to perform certain memory tests while inside an MRI so that researchers could see how their brains functioned. Not surprisingly, the volunteers showed signs of stress, fatigue, and reported feeling overly emotional as well. Other studies have shown that even a 24-hour disruption of sleep can lead to neurological symptoms that may mimic other disorders.
People who are deprived of sleep may feel achy, tired, have poor coordination, and in some cases, may even exhibit strange symptoms such as hallucinations. Sleep loss has been heavily linked to certain psychiatric disorders including hyperactivity, depression, and even dementia. Apparently, being sleep deprived rewires both the brain and the body, causing misfires and creating symptoms that may appear like other disorders.
It can also dramatically increase your chances for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, respiratory illness like colds and the flu, and other chronic disease states. And to add insult to injury, being deprived of sleep can also make you gain weight.
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Lack Of Sleep May Lead To Dementia
Not only can getting enough sleep protect you from dementia, however, not getting enough may lead to dementia. Sleeping very little during one’s midlife may actually increase the risk for developing dementia later in life, with or without predisposing factors.
In middle age, there are plenty of reasons for poor sleep including shift work, caretaking, insomnia, and responsibilities or just anxiety in general. Without learning the tips to control for these feelings, these individuals may find themselves chronically sleep deprived and at higher risk for developing dementia by the time they retire.
Therefore, if you plan on having a healthy brain long-term, it’s time to put down the work when It’s time to go to bed and get the full 7-8 hours.
It’s been hard to nail down which came first, sleep deprivation that caused dementia or dementia that caused sleep deprivation. However, the more research showing that younger individuals are having less sleep and then developing dementia in their old age, the more than research is pointing towards a lack of sleep as being the problem.
Total Vs Incremental Sleep Loss
Total sleep deprivation, in which no sleep is obtained for several nights in a row, certainly can be a trigger. Chronically obtaining too few hours of rest may likewise have a cumulative role.
The degree of sleep deprivation required to start to experience side effects likely varies for each person depending on their individual sleep needs and genetic predisposition toward hallucinations.
If someone needs 10 hours of sleep to feel rested, but only gets eight hours, they will gradually become sleep deprived. This occurs even though they may seem to be getting enough sleep based on the population average.
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Sleep: Just One Healthy Habit That Benefits The Brain
Sleep is one potential risk factor associated with dementia, but its not the only one, said Claire Sexton, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimers Association. Her suggestion: Dont focus on just one factor. Instead, try to create a healthy lifestyle that might actually, truly help prevent dementia. A nutritious diet, physical activity and social engagement have also been linked to better brain health.
The Alzheimers Association is putting sleep front and center in its own research right now. The group has just launched U.S. POINTER-zzz, a $5.3 million study to examine whether lifestyle changes that might reduce Alzheimers risk also improve sleep. U.S. POINTER-zzz is a substudy of U.S. POINTER, a two-year clinical trial testing whether a combination of exercise, diet, mental stimulation and social support can reduce the risk of dementia in people who may be at increased risk for cognitive decline.
U.S. Pointer-zzz is recruiting subjects for the study. You may qualify if you are 60 to 79 years old, not a regular exerciser and have a risk factor for memory loss . You can learn more about U.S. Pointer here.
Treatment For Sleep Apnea
Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea can be more straightforward than treatment of apnea that is central or mixed . Simple steps such as limiting alcohol, smoking, sedatives and muscle relaxants losing weight sleeping on ones side or elevating the head of the bed can help. Physical training has been shown to reduce sleep apnea even in the absence of weight loss.
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S To Take If Youre Experiencing Sleep Problems
Poor sleep and sleep disorders can be caused by a number of factors beyond dementia, including lifestyle and mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety and underlying medical conditions. To help reduce the risk of dementia and other health issues, its important to understand what could be causing sleep problems and learn how to improve your sleep routine.
Sleeping Gives The Brain A Chance To Clean Up
Lack of sleep could influence dementia risk in several ways. One of the most-studied mechanisms involves the brains nightly cleaning cycle, Lucey said.
When were asleep, theres an increased flow of fluid through the brain, and this is hypothesized to clear out waste products and lower their concentration, he explained.
Among the waste products lowered by sleep are the proteins beta amyloid and tau. At night, both of these proteins are released less and cleared more. In people who develop Alzheimers, both proteins build up to dangerous levels. Beta amyloid forms sticky clumps that interfere with signaling between neurons, and tau forms tangled knots that kill the neuron itself. When these proteins cant be normally removed, they may be more likely to eventually begin sticking together into pathological forms, Lucey said.
Other proteins implicated in different kinds of dementia also follow this circadian waste removal rhythm, he added. Weve also looked at alpha synuclein, a protein that is important in both Parkinsons disease and Lewy body dementia, and whose concentration increases with sleep deprivation.
Sleeps effects on cognitive health may range far beyond protein clearance. Inadequate sleep is also associated with atherosclerosis, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and depression all of which are important risk factors for Alzheimers disease and other dementias.
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