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New Study Finds Interrupted Sleep Can Lead to Alzheimer’s

If you have noticed an increased difficulty staying asleep, you might want to take a look at a new study released by Wheaton College. Researchers did three separate studies on interrupted sleep vs. Alzheimer’s, and the results were pretty shocking.

The three studies found a strong connection between breathing disorders that interrupt sleep (like sleep apnea) and the accumulation of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s. If you’ve been reluctant about getting tested for sleep apnea, now might be a great time to get the ball rolling!

Sleep Disorders vs. Alzheimer’s

People with sleep apnea will wake up several times during the night due to hypopnea episodes that pause breathing. This condition is much more prevalent than most people realize — obstructive sleep apnea affects 3 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women. The researchers mentioned that treating sleep disorders with dental appliances or CPAP machines could help lower the risk of dementia or slow its progress. This means that there is hope for prevention, and these symptoms can be managed!

How a CPAP Machine Helps

Though it might be uncomfortable at first, a CPAP machine can keep you asleep all night long without the risk of dangerous pauses in breathing. Over the long term, using a CPAP can help prevent the symptoms that lead up to Alzheimer’s — “If you’re only making it to Stage 1 or Stage 2 (sleep cycle), and then you start choking or snoring or whatever, and you wake yourself up and you do it again and again, you may not even be aware of it, but you . . . may be accumulating this bad amyloid in the brain rather than clearing it,” said Ronald C. Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging.

Recent research found that people who repeatedly jolted awake showed an immediate increase in amyloid buildup. Within a couple weeks of sleep interruption, there was also an increase in the tau protein tangles associated with Alzheimer’s.

Pay Attention to Your Sleep Habits, Seek Treatment when Needed

Since a CPAP can manage symptoms related to sleep interruption so well, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible if you are having trouble sleeping. After this, keeping up with nightly treatment will make a huge difference in your daily life.

“If you’re waking up your partner multiple times a night or you’re tired all day, then you really, really need to go get checked by your doctor, because it could be a sign of something serious,” said Keith N. Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.  “Or if it’s not, just treating the apnea could help with your day-to-day cognition.”

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