Napping during the day for a pick-me-up is common. However, when it becomes an excessive habit, it may be lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies find that Alzheimer’s disease is linked to irregular sleeping patterns.
Irregular and excessive sleep patterns may cause proteins in the brain to tangle, leading to the destruction of certain nerve cells. Maintaining a regular and sufficient sleeping routine may help in decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Napping or irregular sleep leads to the breakdown of protein
A protein called Tau exists within the nerve cells of the body. It is essential for the distribution of nutrients and the stability of the nerve cells.
People who have Alzheimer’s disease have a build-up of Tau in the parts of their brains responsible for sleep. The build-up can lead to tangles, causing a hindrance in nutrients and other essential substances reaching the cells. The cells eventually die for this reason.
Irregular or excessive sleep can also cause a build-up which has the same results. This can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Joseph Oh, the senior author of the study, the network of the brain, which promotes and controls sleep patterns is destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease.
Participants who died with high Tau build up in their brains were subject to disturbed sleep and mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. This data can be seen in this study and a previous one by Grinberg lab.
It is interesting to note that not only one type of neuron was affected by the disease, rather the whole sleep-promoting system in the brain was suffering a result. This huge effect makes it hard for the brain to compensate and continue normal function, showing how detrimental a disease like this can be. However, while in some cases, it may be linked, poor sleep is not always a sign of the disease, according to some doctors.
Protein tangles, poor sleeping patterns and Alzheimer’s disease
It is not yet understood, which is the cause and which is the effect when protein tangles in the brain and irregular, excessive or poor sleep patterns are observed. Nevertheless, doctors have provided guidelines to help maintain a healthy sleeping pattern:
- Maintain a well-rounded diet.
- Have a relatively fixed routine for sleeping.
- Any physical activity, along with light exposure, is healthy and helpful in making a person sleepy.
- Have a healthy and comfortable sleeping environment.
Sleeping medication might be counter-productive
While sleeping and allergy medication may seem like an easy solution to sleeping issues, a recent study shows that they increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleeping aids have chemicals such as diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is an anticholinergic and prevents the transport of acetylcholine, which is an essential neurotransmitter.
Hence, researchers concluded that higher doses of such drugs and chemicals might heighten the risks of dementia and related diseases. Therefore, instead of solving the problem of poor sleep, they might be making it worse in the long run.