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Why Sleep Disorders May Precede Parkinson's and Alzheimer's

In a new study discussed by Scientific American, scientists report that more than 80 percent of people with rapid eye movement sleep disorder (RBD) develop neurodegenerative maladies such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy or dementia. Even if they aren’t diagnosed with RBD, people with these diseases suffer a wide range of sleep disorders, the magazine said.

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness that has been linked to sleeplessness by a number of studies. One reason for this is because your brain’s waste removal system only operates during deep sleep, when the glymphatic system becomes 10 times more active than during wakefulness. Simultaneously, your brain cells shrink by about 60 percent, allowing for greater efficiency of waste removal. But if you can’t sleep, this doesn’t happen.

The latest sleep guidelines, based on 300 studies looking at the health effects of sleep, confirm that most adults need eight hours of sleep. Yet, 40 percent get only six hours or less, and 58 percent of teens — who need eight to 10 hours — average only seven or less.

Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way. My 33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep can help you learning better sleep practices, such as avoiding TV and using electronics at least an hour before bed; avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other drugs including nicotine; making sure you sleep in a totally darkened bedroom; optimizing your daily exposure to light and once the sun sets, avoiding light as much as possible to assist your body in secreting melatonin, which helps you feel sleepy.
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