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Healthy sleep habits reduce the risk of dementia among older people

Sleep habits

(NaturalNews) The pace of life is very hectic for most Americans, so naturally they value their sleep. And yet the quality of sleep many of us experience is often very poor; job worries, school stress, the pressures associated with raising a family, and other situations can weigh heavily on our minds and keep us up at night. Heavy alcohol consumption can add to the problem.

Finding out what makes us toss and turn or lie awake in bed at night is important, not only so we can remedy the problem and become more productive during the daylight hours when most of us are awake, but also because it is a vital component of improving brain health. In fact, according to a recent study, older people who get less sleep for any number of reasons, tend to experience changes in their brains that closely resemble the changes experienced by people who develop dementia.

Researchers at the Veterans Administration in Hawaii assessed 167 men who engaged in sleep tests, and who died an average of six years after the tests were conducted. During autopsies, forensic examiners were on the lookout for micro infarcts or any abnormal changes in brain tissue. These appear more frequently in persons who get less sleep due to poor habits and health conditions that keep them up, such as sleep apnea and emphysema. Researchers found that individuals who had such brain tissue changes also had lower blood oxygen levels, a condition which has been linked to the onset of dementia.

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This is all very important, because, as participants in the upcoming free online Alzheimer's and Dementia Summit that runs from July 25-August 1, you will discover that these conditions are on the rise. Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death, and the verage burden on families dealing with late-stage dementia is $300,000. You can learn how to prevent the onset of dementia at the summit.

The VA study's scientific findings were predicated on divisions of people who slept normally and those who also had lower-than-normal blood oxygen levels. Researchers discovered after examining data that subjects who spent 71 to 99 percent of their sleeping time with lowered blood oxygen levels were nearly four times as likely to develop some brain damage. The end result is that those who experienced lower levels of oxygen more often during sleep time were more prone to developing brain abnormalities.

"These findings suggest that low blood oxygen levels and reduced slow wave sleep may contribute to the processes that lead to cognitive decline and dementia," said study author Rebecca P. Gelber, MD, DrPH, of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System and the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii.

She further noted that additional study is required so that researchers can take a closer look at links between slow wave sleep, lowered blood oxygen levels and brain function as each pertains to the onset of dementia, and whether the reversal of those factors might reverse the incidence of brain damage as well. Still, she says, the VA study is noteworthy and important in and of itself, as it provides some preliminary data and a jumping off point for further examination.

Also, it is important to note that slow wave sleep is vital when it relates to the processing of new memories and recalling of factual data.

It naturally follows that interruptions in slow wave sleep may cause brain cells to be negatively affected in a manner consistent with the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The study, entitled "Associations of Brain Lesions at Autopsy with Polysomnography Features Before Death," was published in the journal Neurology in the spring of 2015. The study primarily focused on the length of sleep time, oxygen saturation and apnea among Japanese-American men in Honolulu.

Experts have said that causes of low blood oxygen levels range from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), to congenital heart disease and pulmonary fibrosis. Sleep apnea was also a major cause.

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