Insomnia: is there a Link with Brain Damage and Alzheimers?
Sleep has always been known as a restorative and healing tool. But of course to make that tool work correctly, you will need a really good night's sleep. As if to emphasize the importance of restorative sleep, researchers have now discovered that too little sleep could cause brain damage and even accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's. According to neuroscientist Dr. Sigrid Veasey (an associate professor of Medicine and a member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the Perelman School of Medicine) this is the first occasion they have been able to show that sleep deprivation actually results in the loss of neurons while a second study also suggests that if you sleep poorly, you’re at increased risk for earlier onset of severe dementia.
What is dementia?Dementia is a gradual decline of how the brain functions where it slowly interferes with a person’s ability to carry out the normal tasks of daily living. Although there are around 100 different types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, affecting 62% of those living with dementia. Sadly, the number of people with dementia is steadily increasing.
More on the studyMice were used in the research. The first study in question, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that sleep is necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain. Wakefulness is associated with mitochondrial stress, and without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in. The research also showed that catching up on “sleep debt” on the weekend will not prevent this damage. As part of their research, the researchers submitted mice to an irregular sleep schedule similar to that of shift workers and found that inconsistent and intermittent sleep resulted in considerable and irreversible brain damage with the mice losing 25% of the neurons located in their locus coeruleus. This is the area in the brainstem associated with arousal, wakefulness and other cognitive processes.
Apart from a good night's sleep every night, what other steps help prevent Alzheimer's?
- Common medications have been linked to dementia including these given on prescription: tricyclic antidepressants for treating depression; antihistamines used to treat hay-fever and allergies; as well as antimuscarinics for treating urinary incontinence. All those medications are ones with an “anticholinergic” effect.
- Substance abuse – and particularly alcohol – is a possible cause of dementia in 10% of younger people.
- One of our earlier posts reported on how researchers found a link between the herpes simplex virus and alzheimer's. The volunteers who carried the dormant herpes simplex type-1 virus had approximately twice the risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s as those who did not have the virus in their systems.
- We need to remember on the subject of cholesterol that we all need sufficient levels to enable our brains to function properly. Cholesterol is a major constituent of the human brain, and the brain is the most cholesterol-rich organ. Cholesterol is tightly regulated between the major brain cells and is essential for normal brain development. Consider the race to lower everyone's cholesterol and whether this could be part of the reason behind increased Alzheimer's figures?
- Increasing your intake of nutrients and vitamins from a wide range of fruits, vegetables and oily varieties of fish to protect the brain and make it work better. Raw nuts of all types give you a good helping of vitamin E, boosting your memory powers while broccoli is a great source of vitamin K which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brain power as well as being linked to the prevention and control of Alzheimer’s. Take care to increase your vitamin K2 levels. Research has also shown a deficiency of vitamin K occurs in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Increasing your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has been found to alter the development and progression of many diseases including including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease can now be added to the list and in fact obtaining vitamin D from natural sunlight or supplementing with the pro-hormone should be mandatory for all health-minded people wishing to lower chronic disease risk.
- Getting rid of fluoride in your water supply because simply put sodium fluoride is a synthetic waste product of the nuclear, aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industries. Do you really want to add this to your fluid intake?
- Adding coconut oil to your diet. Take two tablespoons daily with food but start off with just a teaspoon of coconut oil and build it up gradually