Sleep troubles can make you more than just tired

Sleep troubles can make you more than just tired

Everyone needs a good night’s sleep to help recharge. However, it turns out catching some zzzs may be key to keeping your mind sharp. A review of research in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry reveals sleep problems could be linked to cognitive decline in older adults.

Researchers took a closer look at 51 previously published studies on different types of sleep issues and discovered some interesting statistics. The researchers say people with insomnia are 27% more likely to develop cognitive issues, and people who don’t get enough quality rest were at a “25% higher risk of dementia.”

Dr. Ikram Khan, a neurologist who specializes in sleep disorders and epilepsy at Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute in Milwaukee, Wis., says this makes sense, in theory.

“If you think about it, toxic substances that cause inflammation in the brain need to be removed, and this happens while you sleep,” Dr. Khan explains.

However, he approaches this latest research review with caution.

“There’s no good study to prove this. It’s all observational,” Dr. Khan says.

Still, he says, sleep is an important part of your life, and not getting enough can mirror symptoms of cognitive decline.

“It’s called pseudodementia. The lack of sleep leads to poor executive function and lack of concentration,” Dr. Khan says.

He says one of the major sleep issues he sees most often is sleep apnea, which deprives the brain of oxygen. When this happens, it not only impacts your brain but the rest of your body, as well.

“Sleep disorder breathing problems are very common. They can increase risk of heart problems, dementia, diabetes and high blood pressure,” he says.

Dr. Khan says that sleep apnea or other sleep issues like insomnia are “under-recognized” in many adults. So, they may think they’re dealing with cognitive decline when, in fact, it’s something that can be fixed.

“Once you fix the sleep issue, you see a remarkable change in function. People can get better,” Dr. Khan says.

If you’re worried about sleep apnea, you can take a free online quiz to learn more about your risk. If you’re looking for some extra sleep help, you can find some in Wisconsin. And you can find services in Illinois, too.

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  1. See overview of the glymphatic system and how clearance of waste products and beta amyloid (associated with Alzheimer’s) is necessary during sleep. This establishes the important relationship of restful sleep and prevention of cognitive decline.

  2. I have a full mask for sleep apnea and wear it daily. Not only has it not helped me sleep better but now I wake up more often due to the mask not fitting perfectly and with major bloating due to air being pumped into my body. It has not resolved my issues and has only made things worse (except for my wife, who doesn’t have to put up with my snoring).

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About the Author

LeeAnn Betz
LeeAnn Betz

LeeAnn Betz, health enews contributor, is a media relations manager for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a former TV news executive producer with a background in investigations, consumer news and in-depth storytelling. Outside of work, she enjoys CrossFit, baking, finding a good cup of coffee and being a mom.