Poor Sleep Habits: A Possible Cause of Dementia?
While there is mounting evidence to support the catastrophic short-term effects of poor sleep, recently published research by the American Academy of Neurology has uncovered a connection to long-term conditions, such as the development of dementia. The study found men with decreased levels of oxygen in their blood while sleeping, a condition caused by sleep apnea, were four times as likely to develop 'microinfarcts' – areas of dead tissue in the brain caused by microscopic strokes. Microinfarcts are considered the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, and ultimately dementia.
The study also uncovered that people who spent less time in slow wave sleep, also known as deep sleep, were much more likely to have losses of brain cells, as compared to those who spent more time in slow wave sleep. "Slow wave sleep has been considered the deep, restorative stage of sleep and is important in processing new memories" explained Dr. Rebecca Gelber, from the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu, who led the study.
In this study, 167 Japanese American men with an average age of 84 were followed and given sleeping tests up until they died, an average of 6.5 years later. Autopsies were performed on their brains and the scientists measured the prevalence and occurrence of microinfarcts, loss of brain cells, plaques and tangles (the latter two are also associated with Alzheimer's disease).
"Microinfarcts and atrophy are known to be much more common, and more severe, in people with dementia, than in people without memory problems," Gelber said. Overall, her study found that the men exhibiting the lowest amount of blood oxygen levels during sleep displayed microinfarcts in their brain by four times the amount compared to the men with the highest blood oxygen levels.
Dr. Gelber pointed out that this is the first study to demonstrate that certain sleep features, such as sleep apnea, are related to these abnormalities that are linked with the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
"These findings suggest that low blood oxygen levels and reduced slow wave sleep may contribute to the processes that led to cognitive decline and dementia. More research is needed to determine how slow wave sleep may play a restorative role in brain function and whether preventing low blood oxygen levels may reduce the risk of dementia," said Gelber. She also cited a previous study which showed that use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) for sleep apnea may improve mental cognition, even after the onset of dementia.
If you are one of the 40 million Americans every year who suffer from a sleep disorder, then perhaps it is time to consider the many benefits a new memory foam mattress can provide. Memory foam has been proven to improve sleep by the fact that it softens to your body along the various pressure points we have from our head to our toes. Memory foam supports your body along the natural curves and lines of your body, thereby promoting deeper, more sound and restful sleep. Some evidence also suggests that memory foam could be particularly effective for the elderly, helping to eliminate the number of times they awaken during the night. While we can’t directly link a Nature’s Sleep mattress with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's, the research is heading in the right direction to demonstrate the importance of a full night's sleep, and here at Nature’s Sleep, we are confident we can provide you with exactly that.