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The Power of Sleep

Sleep is important! This is a statement that many of us may have heard countless times in our lives. It may have been said by our parents as they lectured us on sleeping at our bedtimes or it may have been taught to us in school. It has become common knowledge that children should get about 10-12 hours of sleep and adults should get about 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, most people have a superficial understanding on the importance of sleep. For many people, unlike diet and exercise, sleep is not the first thing that comes mind when thinking about how to decrease the risk for developing life altering diseases. Nonetheless, getting enough sleep not only decreases such risks, but it can also increase the longevity and quality of one’s life as well.

Recent research has shown how there is a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and an increased risk for neurodegenerative illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Being sleep deprived can cause an individual to feel tired and it can negatively affect cognitive functions by decreasing how fast we can think, learn, react, and respond to the events occurring around us. Disrupted sleep can impact our memory storage and formation processes. A study conducted by Chen DW, Wang J, Zhang LL, Wang YJ, and Gao CY monitored patients with sleep disorders. When looking at their cerebrospinal fluid, they found elevated levels of amyloid-β (Aβ), which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple other studies including the Yulate lab have also observed that even one night of sleep deprivation in healthy middle aged men resulted in elevated Aβ levels.

Further experiments with mice also led to the findings of the correlation between sleep deprivation and elevated levels of Aβ or tau markers. As conducted by the lab of Maiken Nedergaard, their findings showed that the rate of glymphatic clearance decreases with less sleep. Throughout these studies they concluded that during cognitive wakefulness, increased brain activity correlated to an increase of Aβ, which stimulates the release of extracellular Aβ and tau from neurons. While we sleep, our body works to get rid of toxic waste products. However, sleep deprivation shortens the time that our body has to complete these processes. This can allow such products like beta-amyloid to build up in our brain that can cause Alzheimer’s-Dementia.

Our body completes important functions during REM, deep sleep, that impact how well we can complete our day-to-day activities. Thus, getting a good night’s sleep can work to prevent or delay an individual from developing Alzheimer’s-Dementia. Sleep experts suggest numerous ways to improve our sleep cycle. Developing a bedtime routine that is followed through every night can create a consistency for your sleep cycle. Refraining from eating right before bed is important because eating a large meal causes our metabolic and digestive muscles to continue working, which can cause us to stay awake longer. Lastly, not using electronic devices before bed can help you fall asleep faster. Therefore, we should all think twice before binge watching our favorite show instead of sleeping. Afterall, sleep is indeed important!


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