Does poor sleep cause dementia?

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It makes sense that after a night of poor sleep, we might not be thinking as clearly the following day. But what about engaging in poor sleep habits throughout our lifetime? Could that put us at risk for long-term cognitive impairments, such as dementia?

Even in people who don’t seem to be cognitively impaired, poor sleep seems to correlate with subtle changes in the same brain proteins that are used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The question is why.

Possible explanations

There are several explanations, which are not mutually exclusive and could all be true:

  • Sleep is biologically important for reducing or clearing harmful neurodegenerative proteins from our brains. Exciting new studies in mice have suggested that sleep may clean the brain of amyloid beta, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Good sleep habits and heart health

Are you a healthy sleeper?

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Studies show that not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Good sleep habits and heart health go hand in hand. While the body rests during sleep, the brain remains active to produce hormones that promote growth and repair cells and tissue, fight infections and help the body control hunger.

While sleep needs vary from person to person, most adults need seven to eight hours each night. School-aged children and teens function best with at least nine hours of sleep each night; preschoolers, 10 to 12 hours. Continue reading

What you can do about insomnia

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Don’t watch the clock if you have insomnia.

As a sleep medicine physician, I know first hand that insomnia troubles many people.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person is having difficulty falling sleep, maintaining sleep or waking up too early in the morning, despite having adequate time to sleep while in an environment that is conducive to sleep. Typically, if it takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, you’re awake more than 30 minutes a night, or you wake up 30 minutes earlier than you would want to, chances are that you have insomnia.

There are things you can do on your own to sleep better—or, we hope, eliminate your insomnia altogether.  Continue reading

Beyond counting sheep: intervention for the sleepless cancer patient

insomniamCancerPartner sat down recently with Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and clinical director of the U-M Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, to discuss the factors that determine a good night’s sleep, why it is especially important for cancer patients, and what treatment options are available.

mCancerPartner: Unless we have a nighttime job, most of us try to sleep at night and be awake in the daytime. How do circadian rhythms relate to sleep?

Dr. Conroy: Circadian rhythm is the name for your body’s internal clock. It is a 24-hour Continue reading