In recent years researchers studying all things concerning Alzheimer’s and dementia have seen a connection between lack of sleep and the disease. The question they are most concerned about now is whether the lack of sleep is due to Alzheimer’s or is it the other way around – is the disease causing sleep deprivation?
A study funded by the nonprofit Ellison Medical Foundation and the National Institutes of Health found frequent night awakening are linked to signs of Alzheimer’s. The findings are being presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in New Orleans in April, 2012.
As with any new information, people often take from the studies what they hope will work for their loved one without considering the harm they could cause through misunderstanding.
It has long been known that if people are significantly deprived of their sleep, there is a negative effect on their brain function much as too much alcohol negatively affects the brain.
People who want to believe that sleep deprivation is causing dementia may give their loved one sleeping pills in order to induce longer sleep times without realizing they could be causing them grave harm in the long run.
Damian Crowther, a neuroscientist connected with the University of Cambridge revealed this conundrum in 2009 with a warning that sleeping pills are not the answer to preventing Alzheimer’s.
Crowther recommends that the Alzheimer’s sufferer exercise instead, and allow the exercise to induce sleep rather than taking sleeping pills.
Studies are still ongoing and we will need to wait as researchers sort out the preliminary findings and test their theories. There are many factors that can come into play during research, and it is important that thorough investigation take place.
But, at least we know that work is being done in that specific area, and that is good news for family members of those who are struggling with dementia, especially Alzheimer’s.
I’m sure as more studies are done in this area we will certainly hear the results. Hopefully, it will be good news.
Alzheimer’s Linked to Chronic Sleep Loss, EMAX Health.com, September 25, 2009
Could Sleep Problems Predict Alzheimer’s, WebMD Sleep Disorders Health Center, Feb. 14, 2012