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Alzheimer's Disease

Why Alzheimer’s Patients Depend on Sleep Quality

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Posted on Nov 03, 2017, 4 p.m.

A previous article here on WorldHealth.net discussed a study which showed that low-quality sleep can harm the brain and increase the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease later in life. However, this is not the only link between the condition and sleep deprivation.

Research from the University of Cambridge revealed that while Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t destroy a person’s internal clock, it creates dissonance that the patient’s sleep-wake cycle becomes irregular. This is considered one of the reasons for the restlessness of affected individuals at night. In fact, many patients with the condition have been observed to show “sundowning,” the scenario in which they become easily agitated as night comes. 

Meanwhile, a University of California-Berkley study discovered that poor sleep can worsen the illness. Specifically, it can lead to long-term memory loss because of the excessive deposits of beta-amyloid protein to the brain. Besides impairing memory, it can also lead to further sleep disruption, resulting in a vicious cycle in which Alzheimer’s patients lose both their memories and their sleep. 

Such studies point to the fact that getting good quality sleep is extremely vital. Matthew Walker, the senior author of the University of California-Berkley study, theorized that sleep can help flush out the proteins that cause the memory loss. He explained, “Sleep is helping wash away toxic proteins at night, preventing them from building up and from potentially destroying brain cells. It’s providing a power cleanse for the brain.”

The question is, how can Alzheimer’s patients, who are observed to have shallow, erratic sleep, be encouraged to get sufficient rest? One strategy is to create an environment conducive for sleeping. An article by Leesa explained in detail how psychological approaches like modern color theory can be applied to promote rest. Cool colors such as blue and green are proven to help calm the mind and make it easier for the room’s occupant to be lulled to sleep. In addition, caregivers should also ensure that there are no disruptive elements and to keep items in the area to a minimum to eliminate the risk of injury.

Activities that are mentally or physically stimulating must be avoided before bedtime. Such tasks should be done during the daytime, as doing so can encourage brain function and help improve mood. 

In a similar manner, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disorders, published through the US National Library of Medicine, discussed how light therapy can help normalize the sleep cycles of Alzheimer’s patients. Exposing them to sufficient light in the morning and reducing its amount in the night are both advised to help them fall asleep.

Routines are important for persons with Alzheimer’s disease. Primary caretakers should establish a set routine and stick to it during the day, as the familiar sequence of activities helps jog the patient’s memory and keep it functioning as normally as possible.

Written by Lauren Davies

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