When you think of Alzheimer’s, you may also think that the term dementia is interchangeable. However, Alzheimer’s and dementia are not the same, but Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, and it is the most common type that affects aging individuals worldwide. The Alzheimer’s Association believes that about seven million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s. However, if you are at that age and you know your cognitive abilities are no different from when you were younger, rest assured that not all seniors are at risk for the degenerative disease.
Lifestyle, behavior, mental health, family history, and age can significantly increase or decrease the odds of you getting Alzheimer’s. And there is one lifestyle habit that can greatly increase your odds of developing the disease, and that is getting very little sleep.
Not Enough Sleep Can Increase Your Chances At Developing Alzheimer’s
As you age, you will find that you struggle to get enough sleep and that is because your body produces less melatonin as you age. Why do infants, children, and teens sleep well? That is because they produce a lot of melatonin. However, production begins to decrease during middle age. Even though it is expected to endure sleep changes as you age if you sleep less than six hours a night consistently, it will negatively impact your health.
The National Institute of Aging conducted a study in 2021 and found that those in their 50s and 60s who slept less than six hours a night were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s later in life. That suggests that poor sleep will increase the risk of dementia. What about sleep medication? That can help you catch up on sleep. However, if you are male, then you will want to hold off on taking sleep medication.
Men That Take Sleep Medication Are More Likely To Develop Alzheimer’s Than Women
Another National Institute of Aging study found that men who take sleep aids are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The institute analyzed over 36,00 healthy adults cognitively and discovered that men that took sleep medication were about 3.6 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than the men who did not. More interesting is that women who had a history of insomnia before taking sleep medication had a 35 percent reduced risk of developing the disease.
However, if the women who never suffered from insomnia began taking sleep medication for reasons such as catching up on sleep due to chronic pain, they were four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. However, there need to be more studies on those who take sleep medication. But unless you are a woman who has a history of insomnia, this is a lose-lose situation.
You get fewer than six hours of sleep consistently, and men who take sleep aids for insomnia are at risk for Alzheimer’s, including women who take sleep aids for reasons other than insomnia. Therefore, what is the solution?
Non-Medicated Approaches Are Best
The best thing to do is not to use medication to sleep. That means ensuring that your sleep hygiene is clean. That means not drinking alcohol late at night, cutting off the use of caffeine in the early afternoon, stopping using screens two hours before going to sleep and sleeping in a very dark room. You can also eat foods that can help promote sleep, such as almonds, bananas, cheese, turkey, and chamomile tea, and have a drink of tart cherry juice a few hours before going to sleep. As you digest it, melatonin starts to be produced. Therefore, it can help you sleep, and be sure not to eat large meals within three hours of bedtime. That can also defeat the purpose.