If you’re an older listener who has trouble sleeping – or that sounds like someone you love - listen carefully. A study in the journal Neurology suggests that disrupted sleep may be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease. One that pops up well before the characteristic symptoms like memory loss and cognitive problems. 

Researchers measured the levels of plaque in the brains of over a-hundred healthy volunteers – which is thought to be a major contributor to Alzheimer’s. Then, they used motion sensors to track the volunteers’ sleep patterns over a 2-week period. The result: The people with the highest levels of plaque were 5 times more likely to wake up during the night and need naps during the day. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to halt the formation of the plaque that leads to Alzheimer’s. But, there are ways to slow it down. 

  • Studies show that exercise – both mental and physical – helps delay memory loss - and improves cognitive function. So, add daily walks and mentally stimulating activities to your routine, like puzzles, taking music lessons, or learning a new language. 

  • The experts say we should consume more omega-3 fatty acids - which have been shown to improve brain function.

  • Finally – and most importantly - get more sleep. Neurologist Dr. David Holtzman says that sleep disruptions are part of a vicious downward spiral. Because Alzheimer's plaque disrupts sleep, and lack of sleep promotes Alzheimer's plaque.