Poor Sleep And Alzheimer’s Risk

How’s your sleep?


Before you answer, did you know that according to SleepFoundation.org, adults between 18 and 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Adults over 65 need 7-8 hours?


There is a good chance you’re not getting as much sleep as you need.


It would be bad enough if too little sleep just made you tired. But too little sleep can also cause some pretty serious medical problems such as an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.


Now a new study published in the journal Neuroreport studied the possibility that too little sleep could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and clear thinking. It also studied whether taking estrogen, which is very helpful for poor sleep due to menopause symptoms, could lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and improve brain function.


Poor sleep has about the same impact on your brain’s clear thinking as having a drink of alcohol. And lot’s of women in and around menopause have poor sleep. Just one night of totally disrupted sleep or several nights of partially disrupted sleep does a number on your ability to think clearly.


This study gave women ages 42-58 who went into menopause between 5 to 36 months earlier a random dose of either oral conjugated equine estrogen, an estradiol patch, or a placebo pill and patch for 4 years.  They measured sleep quality and took positive emission tomography (PET) scans to study amyloid-ꞵ deposits in the brain, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They also measured the women’s cognitive function 3 years after the study ended.


Among the women who took transdermal estrogen, better sleep was associated with less amyloid-ꞵ deposits in the brain. Women who took either the transdermal patch or conjugated equine estrogen both had better attention and better executive function than women who took the placebo.


From the results of this study, it appears that either oral conjugated equine estrogen or transdermal estradiol are able to improve sleep, visual learning and cognitive function. Only the transdermal estrogen reduced the amount of amyloid-ꞵ deposits in the brain, though the study was too small and too short to absolutely prove transdermal estrogen can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. But another clue is that women from the WHI or Women’s Health Initiative who were followed for 18 years after that study ended and who received a slightly higher dose of conjugated equine estrogen (0.625mg vs 0.45mg in this study) were less likely to die of Alzheimer’s. 


But back to my first question, “How’s your sleep?” I hope you answered, “Great!” If not, talk with your doctor about estrogen or other treatments to improve your sleep. You’ll feel better, think better and may avoid some serious health issues.


This study proved that poor sleep prevents your brain from working at its peak. And poor sleep may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Estrogen may help to prevent both of those things from happening. You’ll find more information on this and similar topics in The Estrogen Fix.

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