Alzheimer’s Part 7 – Sleep and Stress

Prevention of Alzheimer’s Part 7 – Sleep and Stress

With Part 7 we have reached the end of this series on prevention of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps you don’t quite remember everything involved in the first six parts. If so, a summary will undoubtedly be helpful.

  • Part 1 describes dementia and what happens in the brain as it develops. Click here to reach that part in its entirety.
  • Click here for Part 2 where we examined the failed history of Alzheimer’s treatment and began discussion of what causes the deterioration of neurons.
  • Click here for Part 3 and here for Part 4 to review the various life style factors that contribute to the deterioration of brain cells and Alzheimer’s. The first of those factors is nutrient deficiency which typically occurs due to diet.
  • Here in Part 5 we discussed clues of nutrient deficiency, inevitably high blood sugar and insulin, both of which will occur in major chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, retinopathy (eyes), kidney disease, neuropathy, PCOS – it’s a long list.
  • Here in Part 6, we  talked about how commercially processed grain/seed oils negatively affect the structure of your cells. In this case, brain cells.

So while there are other factors such as toxins that can also contribute to brain deterioration, the last two factors I want to discuss here are sleep and stress.


Your brain expects you to get 7 to 8 hours of largely continuous sleep per night. During wakeful hours you brain works really hard getting/passing along information and consolidating important memories collected during the day. A lot of debris accumulates during that time. That debris includes β-amyloid proteins that were once thought to be the cause of dementia.

As you sleep the connections between neurons in your brain shrink about 20%. During this slow down period fluid flows through the space, washing out potentially toxic waste products collected during the day.  Left uncleared, β-amyloid accumulation develops into plaque that destroys synapses connecting neurons in your brain. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated.

Sleep can be a complex issue, particularly when it comes to the causes.  This article from the National Institutes of Health, How Sleep Clears the Brain, describes not the causes but implications for Alzheimer’s. Okay, so we know not sleeping is a bad idea. The question is, what do I do about it?

This article from UMPC Health Beat, 10 Reasons You’re Getting Poor Sleep, lists the most common causes of poor sleep. These include late night snacks, anxiety, temperature, to much stimulation and artificial light before bed. alcohol and caffeine, and exercise before bed. The one cause that is guaranteed to do enormous damage to your sleep and your whole body is sleep apnea.

Also common is simply not scheduling and allowing time for sleep. Some seem to take pride in how little sleep they can require. Two examples are Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom eventually went down with Alzheimer’s.

Are you getting enough good sleep? If not, consider which of the causes above pertain to you and start looking for answers. Note: chronically taking a wide variety of prescriptive and over the counter drugs is not the answer. Drugs always have unintended consequences. There are reasons why you aren’t sleeping. Uncover and fix the problem(s).

Another Point on Clearing Amyloid

Amyloid is a natural element created by the brain, viewed by many experts as protective. But it needs to be cleared and there is more to clearing than just washing it out during sleep. Breaking amyloid down is accomplished by an enzyme called IDE.  That very same enzyme also degrades insulin. In fact IDE’s first priority is degrading insulin because high insulin is so dangerous. The more your diet calls for high levels of insulin, the less IDE available to degrade amyloid.  And what causes insulin levels to be high? Excess sugar in your blood stream. This sugar thing was highlighted in Part 5.

So you can see the connection between diabetes, PCOS, etc. (as discussed in Part 5) and Alzheimer’s. Beyond diet, chronic inflammation attached to illness automatically causes blood sugar and insulin to rise.  Examples would include (but are not limited to) chronic digestive issues, infections, allergies, arthritis, and a bundle of autoimmune conditions.


And what about stress?  We are each different. What causes me stress may be ho-hum for you.

Stress causers are such as job issues, money, grief, illness, moving or retiring, relationships, marriage, and divorce, and a mountain of things that can happen when you have kids (regardless of their age). Your body expects you to encounter stress and has a natural reaction to save you. But when that stress becomes chronic, goes on and on and on, it messes with your hormones big time and the mechanism doesn’t save you at all.

Research has shown that chronic anxiety, depression, PTSD, can contribute to dementia risk. Nothing suggests that stress alone will cause dementia. But when other factors in this series are at play, stress makes things worse. Give this some serious thought.

And In Conclusion

The various life style factors contributing to Alzheimer’s are a package, not just one or two things that matter. And the best way I know to understand the connections between those factors is to read Chapter 4 in Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book, The End of Alzheimer’s. The name of the chapter is How to Give Yourself Alzheimer’s: A Primer. The book is available in hardback and Kindle on Amazon. If the potential for Alzheimer’s worries you, I encourage you to consider the many factors that contribute. Prevention is your best hope.