Dementia is a mental illness typically characterized by a decline in memory, mental abilities and a number of other thinking skills which are critical for daily functioning. Dementia is not a single disease, it is a host of conditions that deteriorate cognition.
Memory loss alone cannot determine if a person has dementia. Alongside deterioration in memory and thinking abilities, symptoms of dementia also include personality changes, depression, anxiety, difficulty communicating and reasoning, inability to handle complex tasks, etc. These symptoms and several others indicate towards the different types of dementia; Alzheimer’s being the most common one.
Surprisingly, recent research on dementia has also come to certain conclusions stating that lack of sleep or improper sleep is also a symptom of dementia where it makes the brain quite vulnerable and can possibly lead to Alzheimer’s.
Improper sleep can increase the risk for dementia
While poor-quality or insufficient sleep is commonly associated with several health issues like depression, research has also found out that it can very well increase the risk for both dementia and Alzheimer’s. Newly published studies have established a number of connections between improper sleep and the presence of risk factors of dementia and quite possibly, Alzheimer’s.
People who have Alzheimer’s typically experience inflammation in the brain due to the presence of damaged brain cells and growth of beta-amyloid proteins which form into a plaque that acts as a catalyst in Alzheimer’s. And according to research, these same biomarkers are present in people who have a consistently irregular sleep pattern. This evidence strongly emphasizes a link between dementia and improper sleep.
Scientists at UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab have also found through a research that falling short on deep non-REM (random eye movement) sleep exposes the brain to memory loss that commonly occurs in dementia and Alzheimer’s. These researchers and scientists further conducted a cross-sectional study to test whether the relationship between poor sleep and the accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins has actual impact on memory loss.
This study was carried out on participants who did not have dementia or any sort of sleep disorder and each of them went through a PET scan to measure the level of these proteins in their brains. The results from this study showed that participants who had the highest concentration of beta-amyloid suffered from the worst sleeping patterns which further suggests that poor sleep is in fact directly associated with memory loss.
Sleep problems signal early onset of Alzheimer’s
The onset of Alzheimer’s, one of the most pervasive forms of dementia,may trigger earlier due to improper sleep, as shown by new studies done on dementia. Researchers at Washington University School designed studies on the relationship between sleep loss and dementia and they observed similar conclusions as derived by earlier researches.
In their study, they recruited 145 men and women, all of whom were free from memory issues except 32 who had spinal fluid abnormalities. Over a course of two weeks, all their sleep related information was carefully checked and observed. Once the study came to an end, the researchers concluded that individuals who slept the worst were five times more likely to have symptoms and signs of preclinical Alzheimer’s confirming the possibility of the occurrence of dementia in those people.
Succeeding research on the symptoms and onset of dementia further revealed that the abnormalities and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s may appear 10 to 20 years before the disease is officially diagnosed. And also that sleep problems or improper sleep might possibly be one of the earliest few signs and symptoms.
Another study done on older adults with sleep issues like obstructive sleep apnea showed that those with a reduced period of deep sleep were at higher and greater risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
These kinds of sleep issues also often result in low oxygen levels during sleep caused by the presence of micro-infarcts in the brain that cause injury to surrounding neurons. This, in turn, may lead to the early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Extensive research done on dementia clearly concludes that improper and poor sleep is indeed a symptom of dementia. Todiagnosethe disease, one may require a brain test or dementia test, however, you also need to improve your sleeping patterns and work on other possible signs and symptoms as well that lead to or contribute to the occurrence of dementia. Remember, that early detection increases the likelihood of early intervention and can increase a patient’s lifespan by years.
Author Bio: KamilRiaz Kara is an HR Professional and Inbound Marketer. He has completed his Masters in Administrative Science from the University of Karachi. Currently, he is writing on mental health, fitness and lifestyle. Visit his company blog and check the latest post on Online Dementia Test. Connect him on LinkedIn for more details.