Sleep deprivation in long run leads to Alzheimer’s: Expert

Sleep deprivation in the long run accumulates and is detrimental to brain health leading to Alzheimer’s, says Dr Naresh Purohit, executive member of the Indian Academy of Neurosciences.
Representative image
Representative image

CHENNAI: Scientific research on Alzheimer’s patients has shown that sound sleep for seven to eight hours every day is absolutely essential. Sleep is the time for the restorative activity for the body and mind; the brain cleanses itself of the abnormal proteins beta-amyloid and tau that are created due to high metabolic activity. Sleep deprivation in the long run accumulates and is detrimental to brain health leading to Alzheimer’s, says Dr Naresh Purohit, executive member of the Indian Academy of Neurosciences.

Sharing his concern on the rise in Alzheimer’s cases in the country, Dr Purohit, Principal Investigator for the Association of Studies for Mental Care, said at a recent event that India is on the cusp of a dementia epidemic with dementia patients projected to spike from the 44 lakh at present to over one crore by 2050. Incidentally, this surge can be ascribed to the growth in our geriatric population as India moves closer to becoming the world’s most populous country, surpassing even China.

He said Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the neuro-degenerative diseases and accounts for sixty to seventy per cent of cases of dementia. Usually, the disease starts slowly and turns worse in due course of time.

“One of the most common symptoms is memory loss, even about the recent events. This is known as short-term memory loss syndrome. With the advancement of the problem, symptoms of trouble with the loss of motivation, language, mood swing, easily getting lost, issues with behaviour and taking self-care etc are seen among the affected persons,” he added.

Dr Purohit, also Advisor for National Mental Health Programme, averred that in Alzheimer’s patients the ability to switch from a state of wandering mind to attentiveness breaks down leading to memory lapses and disorientation.

He cautions, that there is no cure or medicine to date for this ailment and therefore it is important to take steps to delay the onset of the disease.

He pointed out that medical research has established conclusively that smoking and excess sugar is harmful to the body but it is a big risk factor for developing dementia as well. Interestingly, factors that are linked to the onset of diabetes such as obesity and stress are also the factors that are likely to lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia, he added.

Experts explained that a healthy diet is another indispensable factor in how to delay the onset of neurological age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. They suggest following a Mediterranean diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Seafood and eating eggs thrice a week while avoiding red meat, processed foods, and white flour, help not only in preventing dementia but also heart disease.

Experts revealed that focussed activity such as practising meditation for a sustained period changes the brain structures and helps patients with memory-related disorders.

“People need to do something that will challenge their brain and make one feel wanted,” experts said.

They emphasised that half an hour of physical exercise every day, whether it be Yoga or even walking is non-negotiable. Such activities help to maintain the fitness of not just the body but also the mind.

They averred that keeping the mind active be it through problem-solving, crossword or even learning languages helps immensely. Social interactions, taking part in clubs and associations and doing charity work especially to keep the mind engaged after retirement are crucial.

Experts clarified that WhatsApping or even being on Instagram is not social interaction.

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