Have you noticed any changes in your sleep habits as you move past 40-years of age and older? Some of the those changes are perfectly normal and non-harmful, but other changes in sleep habits with age, can be detrimental to physical and mental health.
How many times have you heard older people say ‘early to bed and early to rise’? For many of us past the age of 40, that has become so true. We tend to go to bed earlier and get up earlier and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you get a good restorative sleep.
What about finding out that the older you get, the less sleep you seem to need? There may be a perfectly natural explanation of that and again, this is normal and not necessarily harmful.
As we go about our waking activities, the brain builds up amyloid-beta proteins. If these proteins are not cleaned up or eliminated, they can create conditions like dementia. Over years of research, it has been found that a good sound (restorative) sleep helps to clear the amyloid-beta proteins, keeping the brain healthier. In this way, you can think of a deep sleep as acting like the night janitor for your brain, cleaning up and getting rid of the day’s waste.
However, when a person does not get a good restorative sleep for whatever reason, the amyloid-beta proteins tend to build up. A person who wakes frequently or a number of times throughout the night generally never gets into a long enough deep sleep to allow the cleaning of the amyloid-beta proteins, thus making them more susceptible to conditions like dementia. Reading this caused me some concern as I wake frequently at night due to being in constant pain. I hate think how much amyloid-beta sludge has been building up in my brain.
A recent study revealed that as some of us get older, we lose the ability to get a good sound or restorative sleep. Sometimes that failure to get a good sleep is due to a vicious and harmful cycle. According to the report:
“Sleep ‘fragmentation’ has been linked to a number of medical conditions, including depression and dementia, Mander said. People with fragmented sleep wake up multiple times during the night, and miss out on the deep stages of sleep.”
“It is true that medical conditions, or the treatments for them, can cause sleep problems, according to Mander. But poor sleep can also contribute to disease, he added.”
‘Take dementia, for example. Research suggests there is a ‘bi-directional’ link between sleep disruptions and the dementia process, said Joe Winer, another Berkeley researcher who worked on the review.”
“That is, dementia often causes sleep problems; poor sleep, in turn, may speed declines in memory and other mental skills. According to Winer, animal research suggests that deep sleep helps ‘clear’ the brain of the amyloid-beta proteins that build up in people with dementia.”
“So, there may be a ‘vicious cycle,’ Winer said, where dementia and poor sleep feed each other.”
“Similar vicious cycles may be at work with other diseases, too, Mander said.”
If you find that you are having more trouble getting a good sound (restorative) night’s sleep, see your doctor. Perhaps there is a simple solution to help, like sleep medication and possible, it could be a sign of something more sinister, that can be addressed or at least more controlled or the affects lessened. Don’t hit the snooze button and put off seeking help, as the longer you put it off, the worse or uglier it can get. No one wants to become senile or suffer from dementia and now that they have linked it to lack of good sleep, by taking action, you may put off the ugly and stay good longer.