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Senior woman having sleep disorder

Lack of Deep Sleep May Set the Stage for Alzheimer’s Disease (Dementia)

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The costs of poor sleep or lack of sleep just seem to keep rising. The more we learn about sleep the more we understand how essential it is for maintaining health and happiness and avoiding illness. Some of the most concerning science to come out over the last couple of years has to do with sleep and Alzheimer’s Dementia. I published a post on research showing that certain sleep medications (benzodiazepines like xanax, ativan, valium, klonopin, and temazepam) are connected to increased risk for dementia (click here to read it).

Now there is also new research connecting a lack of deep sleep with this crippling and frightening brain disease. Listen to this interview with Jeffrey Iliff, a brain scientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

Lack Of Deep Sleep May Set The Stage For Alzheimer’s

The research talked about in this interview looked mainly at the issue of deep sleep in mice. However, there is a growing amount of research connecting sleep and sleep medication use to Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. So if poor sleep leads to dementia and use of sleep medications leads to dementia, what are you supposed to do?

This is a conversation I have with folks at the insomnia clinic on a regular basis. From my perspective, if you’re already taking some kind of sleep medication, it’s worth trying non-medication strategies to figure out a way to get off of sleep medication while maintaining a healthy satisfying pattern sleep (Research based strategies often called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia are successful in improving sleep and helping people reduce sleep medication use in an overwhelming majority of situations). For many people with insomnia, this means working with a healthcare provider who has specialty training in sleep and sleep disorders. With that said, the problem of poor sleep can and does have a negative effect on health and quality of life. Because of this, I believe there are situations where using some kind of sleep medication long-term is the most appropriate thing to do.

Whatever your situation, I would encourage you to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about the unique risks and benefits associated with sleep problems and sleep medications.

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