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Losing Sleep Over Alzheimer’s Disease

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This month I have been posting exclusively about Alzheimer’s because November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month. Most of us probably know someone who has been diagnosed with the condition, a condition that sees a new diagnosis in America once every 67 seconds. If you know anyone who is a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease you also know that the caregivers are losing sleep with the stress that Alzheimer’s can represent. But who would have thought that losing sleep itself can be a cause of Alzheimer’s? Researchers in New York have recently published their findings that show a distinct correlation between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the accumulation of plaque amyloid in the brain.

At first, the researchers had to seriously question whether the Alzheimer’s promoted the sleep issue or if the sleep disturbance could exacerbate the progression of Alzheimer’s. They divided a group of 55 to 90 year old adults into groups with no sleep apnea, those with mild sleep disturbance and those with pronounce obstructive sleep apnea. They followed these individuals for two years taking regular measures of the amyloid deposits in their brains through PET scanning as well as their OSA intensity through monitoring. They found that those with the more advanced sleep issues developed statistically more deposits of amyloid on their brains over time. The modest good news here is that not everyone who develops amyloid deposits is doomed to cognitive decline…it is not quite so linear. But people with more advanced Alzheimer’s symptoms also tend to have more amyloid plaque deposits.

These scientists continue to work on this association, because while Alzheimer’s has no proven treatment to alter the decline in cognitive function, sleep apnea can be treated. And slowing the progression of a disease with no present cure by addressing OSA is a win. It is also important to take sleep apnea seriously, because it is not just the rattling of the rafters for the poor bed partner; it is a medical issue with implications for brain health.

Please check my interview with Eric Horng of Chicago’s ABC7 Sunday morning, November 12.  We discussed what caregivers in the midst of a crisis can do … for themselves!  Please check it out on this link.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.  It is available through Amazon.  But if you would like $10.00 off the Amazon price, I invite you to follow this link: and apply the discount code: ZH3VK3U6.

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