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Sleep troubles can make you more than just tired

By: LeeAnn Betz, Health enews contributor, A news service from Advocate Aurora Health

Everyone needs a good night’s sleep to help recharge. However, it turns out catching some zzzs may be key to keeping your mind sharp. A recent review of research in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry reveals sleep problems could be linked to cognitive decline in older adults.

Researchers took a closer look at 51 previously published studies on different types of sleep issues and discovered some interesting statistics. The researchers say people with insomnia are 27 percent more likely to develop cognitive issues, and people who don’t get enough quality rest were at a “25 percent higher risk of dementia.”

Dr. Ikram Khan, a neurologist who specializes in sleep disorders and epilepsy at Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute in Milwaukee, Wis., says this makes sense, in theory.

“If you think about it, toxic substances that cause inflammation in the brain need to be removed, and this happens while you sleep,” Dr. Khan explains.

However, he approaches this latest research review with caution.

“There’s no good study to prove this. It’s all observational,” Dr. Khan says.

Still, he says, sleep is an important part of your life, and not getting enough can mirror symptoms of cognitive decline.

“It’s called pseudodementia. The lack of sleep leads to poor executive function and lack of concentration,” Dr. Khan says.

He says one of the major sleep issues he sees most often is sleep apnea, which deprives the brain of oxygen.

When this happens, it not only impacts your brain but the rest of your body, as well.

“Sleep disorder breathing problems are very common. They can increase risk of heart problems, dementia, diabetes and high blood pressure,” he says.

Dr. Khan says that sleep apnea or other sleep issues like insomnia are “under-recognized” in many adults. So, they may think they’re dealing with cognitive decline when, in fact, it’s something that can be fixed.

“Once you fix the sleep issue, you see a remarkable change in function. People can get better,” Dr. Khan says.

LeeAnn Betz, health enews contributor, is a media relations manager for Advocate Aurora Health. She is a former TV news executive producer with a background in investigations, consumer news and in-depth storytelling.

Outside of work, she enjoys CrossFit, baking, finding a good cup of coffee and being a mom.

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