It is a common problem for many older adults – falling and staying asleep for a full night’s rest. Besides feeling a little foggy the following morning, however, and feeling the need for a mid-day snooze to catch up on lost sleep, the consequences have seemed minimal. That is, until a recent study revealed a possible link between restless sleep and Alzheimer’s disease.
Deep sleep enables the brain to clear out toxins, along with the amyloid plaques connected to Alzheimer’s disease, and it seems that a build-up of these harmful toxins is shown to cause damage to the brains of lab animals. As a result, a human study is starting to better understand the interconnection and its impact.
Through the use of a powerful MRI system, the strength of the brain’s signal to get rid of toxins can be examined: a strong signal in brains whose toxin removal is effective, and a less strong one in individuals who may be developing Alzheimer’s. The objective will be to determine whether a lack of deep sleep does, in fact, affect the likelihood of a future Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and if so, to determine the best treatment procedures to improve sleep quality.
The difficulty in the human leg of this trial will be in assisting members feel comfortable enough in the MRI device to achieve the natural development of sleep, between the noise and cramped and in some cases claustrophobia-inducing quarters. Having said that, it’s a much more feasible and less-intrusive option than the lab animal study, which included creating a window in the skull and observing the brain together with a strong microscope and laser. And the benefits might be life-changing: identifying people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease as a result of inadequate sleep, and opening doors to new treatment solutions.
Per Bill Rooney, director of Oregon Health & Science University’s Advanced Imaging Research Center, “It could be anything from having people exercise more regularly, or new drugs. A lot of the sleep aids don’t particularly focus on driving people to deep sleep stages.”
Financing for human trials is now in place, and the study is scheduled to begin this year.
Are you presently delivering care for a senior family member and finding it challenging to get a good night’s sleep? Or does your loved one have trouble with sundowning or other issues that make nighttime sleeping tough for you both? Contact Heaven At Home Senior Care’s Alzheimer’s disease and senior care experts for overnight respite care, allowing you the opportunity to sleep while knowing your family member is safe and well cared for!