Alzheimers and Sleep

“The two most feared diseases throughout developed nations are dementia and cancer” says Matthew Walker, Author of international bestseller 'Why we sleep'.

We heard last week the sad news that much loved British actress Barbera Windsor has been struggling with Alzheimers for some time.

In the UK alone over 520,000 people are also suffering with this incurable disease.

Good sleep is fundamental to good mental health, just as good mental health is fundamental to good sleep. Symptoms of poor sleep include fatigue, sleepiness during daytime, poor concentration, irritability and memory loss.

As Dr Dan Robotham senior researcher at the mental health foundation says “Sleep and mental health are interlinked, and treating problems with one can help the other, but this link is still under-recognised".

We know that sleep is essential to human life. On average, we spend a third of our life asleep. Sleep regenerates our brains and bodies, and without it we cannot function effectively. During sleep the body undergoes several physiological and psychological processes; processing information, learning and consolidating memories. Not getting enough sleep leads to the build-up of a sleep debt, only repayable through sleeping.

Alzheimers was originally identifies in 1901 and has become on of the largest public health and economic challenges of the twenty first century with numbers growing every year as our human life span has stretched but more importantly as total sleep time has decreased.

Dr Walker elaborates in his book, causal links to sleep  and Alzheimers. He writes that sleep issues could be an early warning sign of Alzheimers or even a contributer to it – he describes insomnia as a “self fulfilling spiral that can initiate and or accelerate the condition” and his theories have been proven by medical experts we now know thanks to much research that if there is a disruption in deep NREM sleep on a continual basis, the brain does not have a chance to have a ‘deep clean’ that allows us to wake up every morning, with our brains once again functioning effectively thanks to  this deep cleansing.

Without sleep, there is a build up of poisonous proteins that relates to Alzheimers – as Walker piuts it “wakefulness is low-level brain damage while sleep is neurologicasl sanitation”

Is there anything we can do to prevent memory loss and the onset of this disease? – there most certainly is and it is non invasive and totally beneficial for mind body and spirit and that is great sleep habits

Furthermore, the type of sleep we get is important. Broadly, the sleep phases include light sleep, deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Light sleep is the bridge between being asleep and being awake, and the sleeper is easily woken during this phase. Deep sleep is thought to be the most refreshing type of sleep, and it is here that the sleeper is most difficult to waken. REM sleep is a relatively shallow stage in which we experience dreams. REM sleep is thus named because the sleeper moves their eyes whilst in this phase, as if following the images of a dream.

Relaxation is also key to a good sleep pattern and that is where Homebody clothing  fits in.

The art of relaxing requires patience, discipline and practice. People who have trouble sleeping find it difficult to relax before and during bedtime. Relaxation training involves paying attention to breathing and muscle tension. People who have trouble sleeping should aim to 'wind down'  by coming into their home and changing clothes – our incredibly soft ‘Modal sens’ fabric encourages that feeling of warmth and calm need to wind down and  combined with relaxing activities such as reading or meditating  just before going to bed, will really help easy sleep become an every night experience

Our top tips for a great sleep pattern are:

Lifestyle changes

Most people know that caffeine contributes to sleeplessness, but so can alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol initially depresses the nervous system, which helps some people fall asleep, but the effects wear off in a few hours and people wake up. Nicotine is a stimulant, which speeds heart rate and thinking. Giving up these substances is best, but avoiding them before bedtime is another option.

Physical activity 

Regular aerobic activity helps people fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night, but try first thing in the morning and get it out of the way.

Sleep pattern 

Keeping a regular sleep pattern is important. This relates to the regularity and timing of our sleep. Sleeping at set times each day enables the body to establish a routine, increasing the need for sleep at that time each day. This is based on a mechanism called our internal circadian rhythm.

Keeping a regular sleep routine will help to prepare your body for sleep at night time by synchronising your body clock. In order to establish a sleep routine you can try:

  • Keeping a sleep diary, track your sleep times and ensure you stick to the same sleep times each night;
  • Get up at the same time each morning. Set an alarm and make every effort to get out of bed as soon as it goes off, this will help to improve low mood;
  • Avoid the temptation to spend lots of time in bed during the day as this can disrupt your sleep pattern by taking the edge off your drive to sleep at nighttime;
  • Keep your bedroom for sleeping. If you are lying in bed feeling anxious/sad then leave the room. Read a book downstairs or watch TV for a while until you feel you may be able to sleep and then go back to bed.

Sleep hygiene

Many experts believe that people learn insomnia, and can learn how to sleep better. Good "sleep hygiene" is the term often used to include tips like maintaining a regular sleep-and-wake schedule, using the bedroom only for sleeping or sex, and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like the computer or television. Some experts also recommend sleep retraining: staying awake longer in order to ensure sleep is more restful.

Lack of sleep is only one of the factors associated with Alzheimers disease, and will not be the magic bullet that eradicates dementia , as Walker says “prioritizing sleep across the life span is clearly becoming a significant factor for lowering Alzheimer’s disease risk’ and that has to be worth doing and a great place to start is with Homebody nightwear for men, women and children make wearing our Modal Sens fabric the start of your everyday bedtime ritual.

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