Sleep-deprived Aussies at risk of Alzheimer’s

New research linking just one night’s lost sleep to increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease1 highlights the urgent need for Australians to improve their sleep hygiene this World Sleep Day – Friday, March 13, 2020.

The research, recently published in Neurology Journal, reinforces the strong link between lack of sleep and increased levels of the tau protein, known to play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s1 – a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, that accounts for up 70 per cent of dementia cases.2,3

More than one in three Australians don’t reach the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, with 85 per cent waking up to three times during the night.4

According to GenesisCare Thoracic physician and Sleep expert, Dr Justin Hundloe, Brisbane, sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects on our overall health.

“Sleep plays a vital role in brain health and cognitive function. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to long-term health effects, including early ageing and increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Lack of sleep can also have significant consequences on our physical health, with higher rates of heart disease, obesity and cancer seen in those who regularly do not get enough sleep,” said Dr Hundloe.

“In the short-term, lack of sleep can cause memory loss, anxiety and reduced concentration. Alarmingly, after 24 hours of no sleep, hand-to-eye coordination is similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.1, increasing risk of road accidents or workplace injuries.”

Slow wave sleep, predominantly occurring during  the first three hours of the night, is the deepest stage of sleep.  Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) occurs later in the night and is associated with vivid dreams. Sleep changes throughout the night in cycles of about 90 minutes, with very brief, intermittent awakenings that most people won’t remember.5

According to Dr Hundloe, good sleep hygiene can help to ensure a restful night’s sleep. His 10 tips for improved sleep hygiene include:

  1. Creating a sleep sanctuary: turn the bedroom into a sanctuary, reserved for sleep, intimacy and rest. Avoid using screens, including TVs, phones and computers in the bedroom.
  2. Relaxing before bed: try relaxation activities before bed, including meditation, reading or having a warm bath or shower.
  3. Having a regular sleep schedule: try going to bed and waking up at similar times each day.
  4. Restricting alcohol and caffeine: avoid excessive alcohol consumption and restrict caffeine intake to before noon.
  5. Avoiding exercise late in the day: while regular exercise can aid sleep, exercising within three hours of going to bed can actually keep us awake.
  6. Carefully timing naps: while short naps may help to catch up on lost sleep, naps longer than 20 minutes or within four hours of bedtime should be avoided.
  7. Paying your sleep debt: to catch up on lost sleep from during the week, try to get a few extra hours on the weekend.
  8. The right lighting: getting the right type of light at the right times can help guide the body clock. Get plenty of sunlight in the morning and avoid blue light, for example from phones or computers, in the evening.
  9. Avoiding screen time before bed: while many people like to watch TV or check social media before bed, this can actually be a stimulant and keep you awake.
  10. Speaking to your doctor: if you’re having trouble sleeping, or not feeling refreshed even after getting enough sleep, speak to your healthcare professional or visit a sleep clinic. For more information on sleep clinics, visit GenesisCare.


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