Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects the brain. There are 55,000 people in Ireland living with dementia of which two thirds have Alzheimer’s. It affects 1 in 10 people over the age of 65. The brain region called the Hippocampus is the centre of learning and memory in the brain, and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged. That’s why memory loss is often one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Sleep isn’t just good for your memory, it can also reduce your risk of Dementia. Many studies have shown, inadequate sleep in midlife raises the risk of Dementia. By looking at midlife individuals, some as young as age 50, we now have greater certainty that poor sleep can increase one’s risk of developing dementia 25 years or more in the future.
Alzheimer’s is known primarily for the person losing their memory. This is the first affect Alzheimer’s has on a person. It begins in the hippocampus where plaques and tangles are accumulated. It is a progressive disease which kills off the brain cells and eventually affects other areas of the brain affecting language, problem solving and moods.
Your brain is very much affected by how much quality of sleep you are getting. We know sleep is important for the detoxification of the brain. We know that the lymphatic system helps to clear toxins in the body but the brain relies on the Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, to help wash the brain at night. This is part of the brain’s glymphatic system which clears out any of the bad guys. During deep sleep, the brain appears to wash away waste products that increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, it may clear out the toxic beta amyloid protein which is known to build up in people with Alzheimer’s.
There is increasing research that links poor sleep to long-term problems with memory and thinking. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says, “We are now learning that there is a significant relationship between sleep and dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.”
We know neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new neural pathways from learning or experiences. This is also an important process for the elderly to help them retain long term memories also known as memory consolidation. In this way, it is important to form different neural pathways to help remember something or someone.
The key to neuroplasticity is to learn new things every day. This changes the structure of the brain. The more neural pathways you form the less chance you have of forgetting.
A study showed, when we sleep, the neural connections that collect important information are strengthened and those created from irrelevant data are weakened until they get lost.
By simply staying engaged in new activities, learning new skills and meeting new people will help the brain stay focused and make new neural pathways.
Movement and exercise is very important for the brain to keep the circulation flowing and to get oxygen to the brain. Also, good brain foods like omega 3’s, anti-oxidants, turmeric and magnesium. Do regular brain training exercises and get plenty of rest and above all get good quality sleep.
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