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7 Tips to Help You Sleep Better and Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s

New research linking slow-wave sleep to tau proteins connected with Alzheimer’s disease has offered hope that one day scientists may be able to screen for cognitive decline by simply measuring non-rapid eye movement slow wave activity, Newsweek reports. Although the current was limited as to which comes first — cognitive decline or less slow wave activity — researchers are hopeful they’ll learn more from future studies.

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A number of studies have linked poor sleep or lack of sleep to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease; one reason for this is because your brain’s waste removal system only operates during deep sleep. Unfortunately, sleep disturbances are endemic in the U.S., where nearly 40 percent of adults admit to falling asleep during the day in the month previous to when they were polled.

There's no cure for Alzheimer's disease, which makes prevention all the more important, and sleeping well appears to be an important part of prevention. This is because your brain needs sleep for waste removal — including the damaging cellular waste connected with Alzheimer’s.

Your brain has a unique method of removing these toxic wastes through what's been dubbed the glymphatic system. The "g" in glymphatic is a nod to "glial cells" — the brain cells that manage this system.

By pumping cerebral spinal fluid through your brain's tissues, the glymphatic system flushes the waste, from your brain, back into your body's circulatory system. From there, the waste eventually reaches your liver, where it's ultimately eliminated.

This system ramps up its activity during sleep, thereby allowing your brain to clear out toxins, including harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer's disease, for example. Another interesting finding in a study with rats is that this glymphatic system seems to be most efficient at removing toxins when the rats are lying on their side, not their stomach or back.

Since separate research with humans showed that people with disrupted deep sleep patterns has higher amounts of amyloid plaques in their brain — a hallmark of Alzheimer’s — it might be worth doing everything you can to get the best sleep you can.

Some tips to help you sleep better include:

1. Optimize your light exposure — our pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you're in darkness all day long, your body can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize melatonin production.

2. Address mental states that prevent peaceful slumber — A sleep disturbance is always caused by something, be it physical, emotional, or both. Anxiety and anger are two mental states that are incompatible with sleep. Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities is another common sleep blocker.

3. Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees Fahrenheit — Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees.

4. Take a hot bath — Sinking into a tub of water 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime raises your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you're ready for sleep.

5. Ditch the electronics at least one hour before bedtime — Electronic devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 pm and 10 pm, and these devices may stifle that process.

6. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other drugs, including nicotine — Two of the biggest sleep saboteurs are caffeine and alcohol, both of which also increase anxiety. Caffeine's effects can last four to seven hours. Nicotine is also a stimulant. Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, but it makes sleep more fragmented and less restorative.

7. Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine — Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day helps keep your sleep on track, but having a consistent pre-sleep routine or "sleep ritual" is also important.

Additionally, listening to calming music, stretching, or doing relaxation exercises shortly before bed can help, as can mindfulness training.

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