Could Sleep Therapy slow the onset of Dementia in at risk people? New research.

Poor sleep roughly doubles our risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. We know that

  • protein debris clears from the brain through tiny channels in the brain (the “glymphatic system”) which open up during deep sleep [1].
  • if protein debris isn’t cleared from the brain it forms amyloid plaque, and tau protein.
  • disruption of slow delta wave sleep causes amyloid beta levels to rise as much as 30 percent [3A].
  • that lack of deep sleep is a major risk factor for Parkinson’s[2].
  • that both Allzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease exacerbate age-related sleep disorders [3].
  • that “ increased production of amyloid beta and tau and reduced elimination of these proteins is the primary contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease” [3A]
  • Improving sleep quality in those with Alzheimer’s reduces symptoms.
  • Sleeping medicines tend to inhibit, rather than enhance deep sleep, even where they successfully reduce sleep onset time and increase sleep duration.

A study published in February shows that tau proteins are cleared from the brain during deep sleep (slow delta wave oscillations.) The highly synchronised neuronal activity of deep sleep increases glymphatic flow, which clears protein debris. [4]

Another new study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting in May shows that apnoea sufferers displayed on average around 5 percent higher tau levels compared to those subjects with no observed apnea. One of the researchers commented “Our research results raise the possibility that sleep apnea affects tau accumulation. But it’s also possible that higher levels of tau in other regions may predispose a person to sleep apnea, so longer studies are now needed to solve this chicken and egg problem.” [5]

To summarise:

• tau proteins are linked to both sleep apnoea and Alzheimer’s.

• sleep apnoea also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s.

• Deep slow wave sleep clears tau proteins, ameliorates symptoms of existing dementia.

sleep therapy (increasing deep sleep) “could potentially be an effective clinical approach to slow the onset of dementia in at-risk patients”. [6]and [3A]

How can we improve the quality of sleep / increase deep sleep?

This cannot be achieved by sedatives, which suppress rather than enhance deep sleep. Lifestyle and dietary changes help. Studies show that sugar lightens sleep quality and fibre deepens it. Sound can be used to increase the power of deep sleep in people who already experience deep sleep, a principle that is increasingly employed in apps and products such as the Philips Smart Sleep headband. But that approach has no application for people who don’t sleep deeply as is the case with many of us, particularly as we get older. Philips say that their Smart Sleep headband is not suitable for those over 50. Which includes me.

Our Approach : the Zeez Sleep Pebble

As a lifelong insomniac, I must have been at risk of developing all sorts of conditions, including dementia. Development of the Zeez Sleep Pebble was not entirely selfless. It has changed my sleep and my life, and I hope that it has reduced my risk of illnesses linked to poor sleep quality, and cleared debris from my brain. I love helping people to sleep well and I think that has many benefits. Our device is designed to prompt deep sleep. It emits tiny pulses designed to prompt alpha, theta and delta brainwaves, at appropriate times in the sleep cycles. Around 80% people respond, and amongst them, the results are very strong indeed. We have had quite a few users with Parkinson’s and a small case series study at Plymouth University hospital with people with Parkinson’s is in the course of being written up. The purpose of the study was to see whether the Zeez Sleep Pebble helps with Parkinson’s — related sleep disorders. No detail as to what goes on in the brain. I would love to be able to do this research. A wonderful care home in Hertfordshire has just begun to use the sleep pebble with a small number of residents and we await feedback. If we are able to improve their night time sleep night time care needs will also reduce, lowering demands on nursing staff and improving their quality of life too.

Copyright Anna McKay 2019