It’s a well-documented fact that sleep is good for your brain. When you sleep:
- Your brain is able to consolidate memories from the day, transferring them from short-term memory to long-term memory.
- Your body drains waste products from the brain, getting rid of the toxins and excess neurochemicals.
- Your brain gets rid of the beta-amyloids that can lead to degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is not always possible.
Sleep Apnea Keeps You Awake
Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common sleeping disorder.
When you suffer from sleep apnea, you wake up throughout the night because your airway closes. If you don’t use the sleep apnea machine (CPAP machine), you’ll suffer from a poor night’s rest. Your body can’t get enough oxygen, so it wakes you up throughout the night in order to jump start your breathing.
But did you know that sleep apnea can do more than just make you tired and cranky the next day? Sleep apnea affects all of your organs, and the lack of oxygen can cause all kinds of health problems. According to research done at New York University, sleep apnea could speed up the onset of Alzheimer’s disease(1).
In the research conducted at NYU, doctors found that people who suffered from sleep apnea tended to show signs of Alzheimer’s at a much earlier age–about 5 years earlier!
Whereas, people who treated their sleep breathing problems with a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment about 10 years later than people whose problems were not treated.
According to Dr. Andrew Varga, instructor in medicine at NYU and a co-author of the study,
“This study is adding to the emerging story that sleep apnea may be contributing in some way to the acceleration of cognitive decline as you age. And that is potentially another good reason to get evaluated and treated.”
Considering the fact that sleep apnea affects up to 26% of women and 53% of men, this discovery should make it very clear just how important sleep is to the brain. Without a solid night of rest, the brain cannot make repairs or eliminate waste products. This can lead to a decline in brain function, as well as increasing the rate at which your brain decays.
Dr. Varga said,
“It’s known that certain neurons in the hippocampus — where much of Alzheimer’s is thought to start — are exquisitely sensitive to drops in oxygen. Sleep apnea may just stress those neurons out.”
If you are already at risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia, or some other degenerative brain disorder, it’s definitely in your best interest to get a good night’s sleep every night.
How to Improve Your Sleep
If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, getting a solid night of rest isn’t going to be easy. Here are a few ways you can improve your sleep:
– Quit smoking. Smoking is believed to contribute to the obstruction and can affect your sleep negatively.
– Avoid heavy eating close to bedtime.
– Cut back on caffeine. Way, way back–like one cup a day at most!
- Avoid anything to “help” you sleep. Alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills all increase your risk of sleep apnea.
- Sleep in a comfortable position. This means on your side, with your pillow at the right angle to allow natural breathing.
- Do throat exercises. You can find a list of simple throat exercises to deal with sleep apnea here…
Don’t let your poor sleep affect your brain!