Sleep Disturbances in Alzheimer’s Disease

Sleep requirements change throughout life. As part of normal aging, sleep generally becomes briefer and fragmented, with older people often having multiple naps throughout the day. In this article, Osman Shabir explains that this may not be the pattern of sleep seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, however. | via News Medical

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Most patients with Alzheimer’s develop sleep problems which worsen as the disease progresses. Some common sleep disturbances seen in patients with Alzheimer’s are:

  • Loss of the ability to stay asleep, despite being able to get to sleep
  • Increased sleep latency (duration required to get to sleep is longer)
  • Increased agitation before bedtime and throughout the night
  • Disorientation upon waking up (in the night, or in the morning)
  • Sleepy during the day, whilst being alert during the night (circadian abnormalities)
  • Periodic limb movement (PLM) is worsened in around 50% of Alzheimer’s patients
  • Shorter duration of both slow-wave-sleep (SWS) and rapid-eye movement sleep (REM) despite the total number of sleep cycles remaining unchanged

The article notes however that not all studies have shown a significant correlation between sleep disruption and Alzheimer’s disease, either in the pre-clinical stage or after symptoms develop. Therefore, not all Alzheimer’s patients suffer from sleep problems, and likewise, not all people suffering from sleep issues in older age necessarily have Alzheimer’s. However, it is now increasingly accepted that sleep loss may indeed be an important risk factor and symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether sleep loss contributes to Alzheimer’s progression, or whether Alzheimer’s causes sleep problems, is yet to be determined.

Full article: Alzheimer’s Disease and sleep disruption | News Medical

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