Study Revealed Two Sleep Positions That Increase Risk for Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative condition that affects millions of people in the United States. This brain disorder causes a gradual mental decline, increased forgetfulness, personality changes, delusions, and a general decline of quality of life, so it is not surprising that many people wish to avoid contracting the condition.
Though new treatments are being developed for Alzheimer’s disease, research that focuses on methods of preventing this brain condition from happening in the first place are just as important. According to a research study that was just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a surprising habit may be linked to an increased Alzheimer’s risk.
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The study discovered that two separate sleeping positions may increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The most dangerous ways to sleep if you want to avoid getting Alzheimer’s disease are sleeping on your back or your stomach. This means any sleeping position where your weight is rested on your back and the back of your head or your stomach and the side of your face while you sleep can be somewhat risky. The researchers discovered that the most effective sleeping position if you want to lower your Alzheimer’s risk is a sleeping position where you lie on either side with your legs slightly bent.
The reason that sleeping on your back or front increases Alzheimer’s risk is because of the complicated relationship between the glymphatic pathway and the function of the brain. The glymphatic pathway is a network of lymphatic vessels that helps the body to take waste from the brain and carry it out of the skull to a place where it can be eliminated from the body. The glial cells involved in the glymphatic system remove large waste products from the brain. One of the things that is cleared from the brain are amyloid beta peptides. These peptides are a type of protein that can start clumping together on neurons, causing neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disorder. Previous research has shown that these sticky clumps of amyloid beta peptides happen when the glymphatic pathway is not fully functioning.
This new study is important because it examined how sleep positions can affect the functionality of the glymphatic system. The researchers gave animal subjects a contrast dye that would show up on an MRI imaging test, and then performed MRI tests while the animal subjects were sleeping. The contrast dye traveled through the glymphatic system as the subjects slept, so the researchers could see how efficiently it was moving. The study revealed that the lateral positions, which are the animal equivalent of sleeping on one’s side, were significantly more effective at clearing brain waste than positions on the back or stomach. The brain waste that was removed by the glymphatic pathway included the beta amyloid peptides that cause Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers theorized that sleeping on the side is so common among animals because it is the healthiest position, so it may cause damage to health when humans choose unnatural sleeping positions.
Though this research was only done on animals, not humans, it still has profound consequences. The researchers hope to do more research on human subjects to further understand the link between sleeping positions and Alzheimer’s disease. Many doctors have already suggested that sleeping on your side is the best position for your spine, so it is probably wise to switch your sleeping positions if you are accustomed to sleeping on your back or front. In order to get a restful night’s sleep, it is important to get a good side-sleeping pillow, which should be roughly five to six inches wide. A proper pillow to help you sleep on your side will keep your neck straight as you sleep, so your glymphatic system can function properly and your neck muscles do not become strained.