If You Keep on Waking Up in the Middle of the Night, Your Brain Is in Trouble. The University of Illinois conducted a sleep study of 516 adults aged 71-78. If You Keep on Waking Up in the Middle of the Night, Your Brain Is in Trouble – Reader’s Digest
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The problem of not getting sufficient sleep is an issue that not only plagues the United States but a large segment of the world’s population. As of 2013, statistics revealed that 40% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep every night as compared to the 11% that was recorded in 1942. If you’ve not been getting a good night’s sleep here is a reason you may want to change that behavior.
Research findings have revealed that interrupting a deep phase of sleep seems to cause more of the proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease to accumulate in your brain. Even the slightest sleep distraction could result in higher levels of beta amyloid, a protein responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s. Longer sleep interruptions could also increase the levels of tau, a protein that forms tangles that damage brain cells.
The adverse effects of failing to get enough sleep are properly documented, but as research shows, it is not just the duration of the snooze affecting your health. In fact, there is an undisputed connection between waking up in the middle of the night and an elevated risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The Pathology and Progression of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that is highly linked to interrupted sleep and can get worse over time. It robs people of their mental abilities and memory. And although tau and beta amyloid proteins are associated with the disease, not everyone who has a high concentration of these proteins in their brain suffers from this disease.
So how does interrupted sleep progress and lead to Alzheimer’s?
The Brain Isn’t As Sharp – When you experience interrupted sleep during the night, the brain’s cognitive ability and attention span just as much as if you had no sleep at all. This pretty much explains why driving when tired can be dangerous; you cannot react as fast as you normally would.
You Start Forgetting Things – When your sleep is constantly interrupted, it becomes difficult for you to make new memories and learn new skills as well. This also applies to things that you had learned the day before you had a bad night of sleep – the brain requires a stretch of sleep to commit what you learned earlier to the memory. What matters is not the total amount of sleep, but the period of time it wasn’t interrupted.
Harmful Proteins Are Not Cleared – Some researchers argue that the beta Amyloid protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease is removed from the brain when you have a sufficient sleep whereas others claim that brain cells tend to release fewer amyloid proteins during good sleep. Whatever the argument is, the truth is that an accumulation of the protein in the brain, often because of interrupted sleep results in the gradual development of Alzheimer’s disease.
If your sleep is constantly being interrupted, the first move is to establish the cause. If you are just a new parent being woken up by your newborn, there not much you can do. However, many cases of interrupted sleep will be related to emotional or environmental factors.