Poor Sleep May Lead to Alzheimer’s Disease
Researcher Jeffry Iliff of Portland University and his team of scientists recently confirmed what has been suspected for several decades: lack of sleep, or low-quality sleep, is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The link is simple. Sleeping brains get rid of amyloids, or amyloid plaques (a type of protein), that accumulate in brain tissue and cause Alzheimer’s and they do it via what scientists call the glymphatic system.
What is the Glymphatic System?
The glymphatic system is a very recent medical discovery, named by a Danish neuroscientist who combined two elements of human physiology – glial cells and the lymphatic system – to create the new term.
The glymphatic system, which closely resembles the lymphatic system, is essentially the garbage chute of the central nervous system, or CNS. During sleep, the brain dumps soluble proteins, waste products, and excess intracellular fluids like cerebrospinal fluid into the lymphatic system. Cerebrospinal fluid, if not removed at regular intervals, can create pressure on the brain and cause serious CNS-related problems.
Before There Was Electronic Light
Health professionals have long known that sleep is a time of healing. Our ancestors – from the cave in the forest to the house on the prairie – lived a more natural, diurnal cycle. They worked hard during daylight. Darkness was a time for sleeping, largely because they were tired, but also because candles and kerosene were expensive. “Farmer candles (cow or sheep fat called tallow)” were saved for emergencies or special occasions.
Most of us don’t want to go back to the cave. Some of us actually prefer the house on the prairie (as homesteaders or survivalists), but not if it’s the result of the breakdown of civilization. However, those of us totally comfortable in our 21st Century dwellings can still do a few things to improve sleep in the era of perpetual light.
Steps to Sound Sleep
- We can try to schedule sleep the way we schedule work: at the same time every day, and under the same circumstances. Routine is an ideal path not only to peace of mind but also to peaceful sleep. Speaking of work, don’t bring it home if you want a good night’s sleep.
- We can shower or bathe before bedtime, allowing the sound, feel, and texture of warm, flowing water soothe us just at it did our ancestors.
- We can avoid naps, since they reduce the amount of time our body says we need to sleep each day. Or we can nap, recognizing that we will not need to sleep as much at night.
- We can discover our actual sleep needs during the sort of vacation (or “staycation”) that allows us to sleep when we are tired and wake when we are rested. Try one and find out for yourself just how much shuteye you need.
- We can choose to turn off computer monitors, televisions, game consoles, and even our cell phones about an hour before bedtime. The intense lighting of these devices tricks our mind into thinking it is still daytime.
- We can avoid caffeine, chocolate, tea, soft drinks, sugar, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications in that last hour before sleep. This goes double for nicotine: if you smoke, try not to do so after 8 or 9 p.m. In addition, eating before bed, or waking up to snack, not only causes us to gain weight, but to lose sleep and memory.
- We can confine gym visits and home exercise routines to the morning or very early afternoon hours. Like bright, artificial light, getting our heart rate up and our endorphins flowing can lead to poor sleep.
- We can sleep in somewhat cool, quiet, soothingly decorated rooms, avoiding bright colors, rough textures, bold patterns, and uncomfortable surfaces.
We can also, for example, choose organic cotton sheets instead of microfiber, organic pillows instead of Dacron fill, organic mattresses or mattress toppers (again, instead of Dacron), and favor organic blankets instead of polyester/Dacron blends, which do not allow skin to “breathe”.
In fact, the volatile organic compounds emitted by artificial fibers, especially when new, are reportedly one of the major triggers for adult and childhood asthma attacks. And who needs that kind of stress at bedtime?
This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety, Sleep Well and was tagged with Alzheimer's, amyloid, artificial light, asthma, caffeine, cellphone, chocolate, CNS, diurnal, glymphatic system, HEALTH SENSITIVE, monitor, nicotine, Sleep, soft drinks, TV, volatile organic compounds