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About sleep and Alzheimer’s disease

About sleep and Alzheimer’s disease

 

One of the biggest challenges in today’s medicine is to provide patients with Alzheimer’s Disease with proper care. While cure is far from reach, maybe even off the table, some symptoms actually are manageable, with relevant understanding and care. 

The relationship between various brain functions and sleep is very complex, to say the least. Yet there are some data related trends we can translate into actions to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Sleep disorders are frequent in Alzheimer’s patients, influencing not only them but also their caregivers, sleep issues are a major risk factor for early institutionalization. 

Changes in sleep patterns occur differently within different patients, and vary through the different stages of the disease. The negative influence of low quality of sleep on neuro-degenerative diseases is well known by now. In fact, one of the best reasons people mention as their reason to embrace better sleeping habits is the prevention of this kind of disease and memory loss in the future. For further reading about our memory click here.

The connection is so tight that one study even determined: “Sleep disturbances represent an early component of AD and the severity of this sleep disruption appears to parallel the severity of dementia.” 

The management of sleep disorders in Alzheimer’s disease is basically behavioral. Proper exposure to bright light and its association with appropriate levels of endogenic melatonin is a promising approach, even as medical treatment.  Further typically related sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea, can even be prevented by close monitoring of melatonin levels and sleep lab testing every once in a while. 

Circadian related disorders of sleep-wake patterns are common within elderly, even more within the ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They usually suffer from difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep along with excess sleeping through daytime. Sundowning syndrome, a pattern of worsening symptoms during afternoon hours, is also found in correlation with sleep deprivation in AD patients. 

Another interesting factor which is related to the prognosis and quality of life within AD patients is the amount of the cerebro-spinal-fluid (CSF) surrounding the brain. It appears that melatonin levels influence the balance between production and destruction of the CSF, as lower levels of CSF were reported in AD patients. Therefore the importance of proper sleep-wake cycles increases even more. 

Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that the cure of Alzheimer’s Disease is far from reach and not by chance. Research conduction related to AD seems to have a limit nowadays, as the targeted therapy shows non significant results compared to placebo, and the research audience is hard to recruit and maintain compliance. Moreover, it seems like the real answers will arise from the preventative aspects, yet the disease indicating symptoms are very general and not so accurate, leaving us all with a lot of question marks. 

All in all it seems like the prevention and treatment of AD are up to us. The better we take care of our overall health, the better the chances of delaying and maybe even preventing dementia & related diseases. 

 

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