We’ve all experienced a bad night’s sleep and know how it can affect your day; it can also really affect our memory and thinking skills – but could sleep problems have a long-term effect on the brain?
Growing evidence points to a link between poor sleep and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. We have known for a while now that disturbed sleep can be one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s and it often occurs years before changes to memory and thinking start to show. But this may not be the full story when it comes to sleep and dementia.
A number of new studies have suggested that interrupted sleep or bad sleep patterns may speed up the progression of Alzheimer’s in the brain, but it’s difficult for researchers to tease apart cause and effect.
Regardless, getting into the best sleep habits to keep your body, mind and immune system at 100% , is more important than ever. Here are a handful of tips to keep you sleeping soundly.
Try using more pillows if you have body aches and pains – using pillows to support yourself while you sleep can be great for improving your comfort and help you relax. Some side sleepers, for example, will use a pillow between their knees to keep pressure off their hips and leg joints in bed, or, if you sleep on your back, a small pillow under the back of your knees can help reduce stress on your spine. You might also want to think about the age of your mattress. You may be long overdue for a replacement that would provide more support and a comfortable and supportive bed is the key to the best night’s sleep.
Change your sleeping environment – Temperature changes, light and noise levels can interrupt your sleep, particularly if you’re a lighter sleeper. The ideal room is dark and quiet, with a temperature between 18C and 24C. Consider using layered covers of varying weight so you can pull more on or throw some off as needed during the night. You might like to invest in a white noise machine to help blend out the sound of noisy neighbours – this could be as easy as having a fan or quiet radio in your room as you drift off.
Address snoring issues – If snoring is serious enough that you feel your breathing is interrupted, consider whether sleep apnoea might be the cause of your sleep problems and talk with a doctor, but for less serious issues there are a lot of options out there. Everything from acupuncture rings to wear while you sleep to having a humidifier on to balance out the dryness of central heating in the winter, can all help with snoring and let you get a full night’s sleep.
Ensure a healthy diet A lack of potassium, found in foods such as bananas, avocados, dark leafy greens and fish, can lead to difficulty staying asleep throughout the night. Also, calcium, found in dairy, helps the brain to manufacture melatonin: the hormone that lets us drop off. So, including these foods in your diet may also help you get a good night’s sleep.