Lack of Sleep and Alzheimer’s Connected?

With sleep being such an important part of our body’s natural process for repairing and restoring the cells and organs in our body, it is no surprise that sleep deprivation and consistent lack of sleep can certainly begin to take a toll on the body’s overall health. In particular, sleep helps the brain to remove any toxins that may have developed throughout the day. This has made many researchers and medical professionals consider the relationship between of sleep and Alzheimer’s.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Many people with Alzheimer’s experience some changes in their sleeping patterns. It is not clear why this happens, but as Alzheimer’s progresses, the disturbance in sleeping patterns seem to intensify. One of these changes is difficulty falling and staying asleep. One of the believed causes of this is that many people with Alzheimer’s feel drowsy during the day and take naps. This can disturb the natural sleeping cycle and make it difficult to sleep through the night.

Other Causes for Sleeping Difficulty

In addition to over-napping throughout the day, here are some of the common reasons that patients with Alzheimer’s are believed to have difficulty sleeping:

Sleep ApneaAccording to research, around 30% of men and 20% of women that have Alzheimer’s Disease also suffer from sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects the breathing while sleeping, which includes long pauses between breaths that can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes.  It can affect sleeping patterns, because those that suffer from sleep apnea struggle to maintain deep sleeping patterns due to the difficulties in breathing.  Some people with sleep apnea can even choke or wake up due to the problems breathing.  This disturbance throughout the night results in very poor sleep quality.

DepressionDepression amongst Alzheimer’s patients is not uncommon.  Depression can affect sleep in lots of ways, making it difficult for patients with Alzheimer’s to get adequate quality rest.

Restless Leg Syndrome – Restless leg syndrome is a disorder which causes an urge to move the legs while sleeping.  Patients experience uncomfortable sensations that feel itchy, like something is crawling on them or even like pins and needles.  Those that suffer from restless leg syndrome complain of severe disturbances in sleep through the night.

Impacts of a Lack of Sleep

The impact on anyone that is not sleeping well is usually obvious (just look at a child that missed an afternoon nap). For those with Alzheimer’s, it can be even more difficult as they try to manage the other symptoms and lifestyle changes that come with the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is not uncommon for those with Alzheimer’s to go through a period often referred to as “sundowning” which is when patients go through an agitated state towards the late afternoon and early evening. This agitation is believed to be the result of sleep deprivation and it can be extremely stressful for loved ones and caregivers.

While Alzheimer’s can be difficult on both those that are diagnosed, as well as those around them, it is helpful to be aware of the different issues that that those with Alzheimer’s have to go through as a result of their disease. Understanding that they may not be getting enough sleep and may be experiencing the side effects of sleep deprivation can help you to at least be a bit more compassionate and empathetic to some of their behaviors.

Sleep Disorder Treatment New York City

The relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s is not one that should be taken lightly. If you or someone you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and believe that sleep deprivation may be an issue, contact the premier sleep doctor in New York City at Sleep MD today at 212-661-7077 or send us a message online. While there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, the professionals here at Sleep MD can schedule a consultation with you to evaluate how sleeping patterns may be affecting you, your management of Alzheimer’s Disease, and make recommendations that may be helpful to improving your overall quality of life. Contact us today!

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