In today's 24/7 society, a growing number of Americans are choosing to spend more time doing work and other activities than getting enough hours of sleep each day.

While some people might think that this is starting to become the new norm, researchers warn that a lack of sleep can cause the brain to become more susceptible to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Brain scientists Jeffrey Iliff and his colleagues at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland are set to explore the potential impact of sleep deprivation in the formation of dementia in the human brain.

Iliff said sleep allows the brain to purge itself of toxins that are associated with Alzheimer's disease. In earlier studies, researchers have discovered that animals that were not able to get enough sleep experienced a buildup of these toxins, which caused severe damage on their brain.

For their study, the OHSU scientists want to find out how sleep problems affect the likelihood of a person to develop Alzheimer's.

Sleep Disorders And Dementia

Health experts have long considered a possible link between sleep disorders and dementia as many Alzheimer's patients suffer from difficulty in sleeping.

Iliff said researchers generally believed the mental condition was causing parts of the brain associated with sleep regulation to be taken out. However, two recent studies have found that the relationship between sleep problems and Alzheimer's disease may be more complicated than what was initially thought.

In 2009, researchers from Washington University discovered that the sticky amyloid plaques linked to Alzheimer's form more rapidly in the brains of mice that were exposed to sleep deprivation.

Meanwhile, in 2013, Iliff and his colleagues found how a lack of sleep could lead to an increase development of these Alzheimer's-related plaques.

Glymphatic System

According to Iliff, another important discovery they made in 2013 is the identification of a process known as the glymphatic system in which the brains of animals purge themselves of toxins during deep sleep.

It involves having a clean, clear substance called the cerebrospinal fluid recirculate back into and through the brain to get rid of Alzheimer's-related plaques.

Iliff pointed out that a disruption in this cleaning process as a result of changes in sleep habits may cause organisms to become more susceptible to Alzheimer's disease.

Iliff and his team are preparing to carry out another study in which they will try to observe the glymphatic system in human subjects.

Natural Remedies For Sleep Problems

If you're having difficulties in sleeping, here are a few simple steps that you can do to prepare your body for rest at night.

1. Calcium and Magnesium

Calcium and magnesium supplements are both excellent sleep boosters, especially when taken together. Not only does magnesium help you sleep better, but it also lowers the risk of developing heart problems that could arise from taking calcium supplements alone.

For your calcium dose, make sure to take 600 milligrams' worth of the supplement each night, while for magnesium, 200 milligrams of it should be able to do the trick. You can lower the milligrams of magnesium you take if you experience diarrhea.

2. Hops

Hops are often used by beer makers to add a calming effect to their drinks. However, the extract of these flowers is also used in sleep therapy as a form of mild sedative for people who suffer from anxiety and insomnia.

Taking 30 to 120 milligrams of hops before going to bed can help you get a good night's rest.

3. Wild Lettuce

Aside from treating headaches, joint, and muscle pain, wild lettuce can also be used to induce a calming effect on individuals who experience anxiety and restlessness.

Supplements made from wild-lettuce can be taken in 30 to 120 milligrams.

4. Aromatherapy

Oils from lavender, Roman chamomile and clary sage are used in aromatherapy to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer periods.

You can pour these oils onto a cotton ball and place it near your bed, or spray them on your sheets to enjoy their calming fragrance when you go to sleep.

5. Yoga or Meditation

Stretching and doing some gentle yoga exercises can help your body relax and prepare muscles for sleep. You can also follow it up with simple meditation to lessen your stress levels. You can do this by closing your eyes for five to 10 minutes and focus only on easing your breathing.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski | Flickr 

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