Alzheimer’s disease is unfortunately becoming more common. It has been associated to a couple of nasties compounds that end up accumulating in the brain; Beat Amyloid and ‘Tau Tangles’.
Beta amyloid is a toxic amino acid peptide that clusters and forms plaques in the brain.
Tau protein basically forms a ‘funnel’ structure allowing the funnelling of critical components up and down the nerve cells in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease has been associated to the falling apart of this protein ‘funnel’, resulting in impairment of the transport function.
The good news is, we all have an amazing ‘sewage system’ in the brain called the glymphatic system. Glymphatic refers to glial cells; they surround neurons and provide support and insultation, also providing oxygen and nutrients. A final bonus is they destroy pathogens and remove dead neurons. Awesome.
This sewage system is activated during DEEP sleep (not REM sleep). When we deep sleep, the glial cells actually shrink in size by 200%! Following this, the debris of our brain is literally washed away by our cerebral spinal fluid. This debris includes the beta amyloid and tau.
A recent study in humans showed that if you take away people’s deep sleep (not SLEEP, just DEEP sleep), you see a SIGNIFANT increase in levels of beta amyloid and tau. This is because the sewage system was not activated. It is only activated when we deep sleep.
The moral of the story is; we should take our sleep seriously! A few nights of bad sleep here and there is probably okay, but if we suffer from poor sleep over decades it is very likely that we’ll have problems down the line. As a terrible sleeper myself, I will be being more strict with my sleep hygiene going forward!..