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The connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease

And why sleep is so important for our wellbeing

This week’s blog is about the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. There are around five hundred and twenty thousand cases of Alzheimer’s disease in the UK and it’s fast becoming a real epidemic. It’s something that many of us are more conscious of, and links are being made between Alzheimer’s and various lifestyle factors, one of which is sleep.

Sleep issues are really common for people with Alzheimer’s disease. And, in fact, sleep or difficulty sleeping, can be one of the early signs. Now, of course, there are many different reasons why you might struggle to sleep, so don’t jump to the conclusion that you’re going to get Alzheimer’s later in life or even early onset, as that’s not the case. However, sleep issues have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s really important to get a good night’s sleep and to have really good sleep hygiene. I’ve written a number of blog posts all about sleep and how to improve the quality of it here.

So why is this an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease? It’s been discovered that sleep, or a lack thereof, can increase the amount of plaque on the brain, which can impair sleep. That’s essentially what Alzheimer’s is; plaque on the brain. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting a good night’s sleep to prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and any of the other sleep related conditions. Not only that but sleep is a great “nourisher” of our nature, to paraphrase Shakespeare. We need good quality sleep; seven to eight hours of sleep is about right for most people.

There is a very small percentage of the population that have a genetic variation that means they don’t need to get seven or eight hours sleep, but they can thrive on perhaps three or four. Some famous politicians made that claim. But, according to Matthew Walker in his brilliant book, Why We Sleep, which I highly recommend, if you were to round up to the nearest percent the amount of people that have that genetic variation, it would be zero; it’s extremely rare. Most people do need seven to eight hours of sleep.

I would really prioritise sleep in your life if you want to reduce your risk of serious illness, and get more out of your everyday life. If you’ve got questions, you can contact me at [email protected].

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Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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