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We’ve all heard about how if we want to get good sleep, we need to do things to support our circadian rhythm — the natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as our circadian clock.
But as science is increasingly proving, this rising and falling of enzymes and hormones that help us fall asleep at night and stay alert during the day do far more than keeping us from tossing and turning when the lights go out.
From obesity and diabetes to high cholesterol and heart disease, when your day/night cycle gets screwed up, so does your health.
Now, disruption to your circadian clock has been found to interfere with the brain’s ability to clear a protein closely linked to stealing your brain functions and memories…
Disruptions to circadian clock linked to brain-damaging plaque
That protein we’re talking about is Amyloid-Beta 42 (AB42) and it’s one you’re probably already familiar with as being behind the brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.
But just because the protein can cause Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t make it a foregone conclusion. Immune cells, called macrophages act like heat-seeking missiles, searching out and destroying unwanted material in the brain, like AB42.
Past research by scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has proven that the circadian clock plays an important role in controlling those immune cells.
Intrigued by the idea that improving the circadian rhythm could be the key to defeating Alzheimer’s, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute decided to follow up.
They not only confirmed the earlier findings that macrophages depend on the circadian clock, they found that the amount of AB42 ingested by healthy macrophages also fluctuates by the clock.
“Circadian regulation of immune cells plays a role in the intricate relationship between the circadian clock and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jennifer Hurley, an expert in circadian rhythms, and associate professor of biological science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “This tells us a healthy sleep pattern might be important to alleviate some of the symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease, and this beneficial effect might be imparted by an immune cell type called macrophages/microglia.”
In addition to helping Alzheimer’s patients overcome the symptoms of the disease, the researchers also say that the results of their study could lead to new therapies that have been sadly lacking.
“In theory, if we could boost that rhythm, perhaps we could increase the clearance of AB42 and prevent damage to the brain,” said Dr. Hurley.
Improve your circadian clock for your brain’s sake
Clearly, this research also underscores the importance of healthy sleep habits in preventing Amyloid-Beta clumps from forming in the brain.
And it reminds us all that if we’re having trouble sleeping, the time to start finding a solution to those troubles is now.
But it’s important, if possible, to help your body ease back into its circadian rhythm naturally. A good place to start is with the “unnatural” things that interfere with it — like blue light from electronics.
Shutting down your laptop or tablet and putting your smartphone away at least two hours before bedtime, along with lowering your household lights, will help your body begin its natural production of your sleep hormone melatonin. It normally kicks in at dusk, but all the artificial light of modern living interferes with the process.
If that doesn’t quite work for you, you can also supplement melatonin. But if you suffer from another modern-day malady — low vitamin D — it may not work as well as it should.
Your vitamin D levels affect how effectively melatonin works for you because the vitamin is essential in the natural production of melatonin in the body.
If you need vitamin D and melatonin to help get your circadian clock back in rhythm — it can be a win-win all around. That’s because both nutrients also provide unique brain health benefits irrespective of their sleepy-time benefits…
- One of four ways that melatonin has been found to help guard against Alzheimer’s disease is by reducing the damage done by amyloid-beta and tau proteins.
- As far as vitamin D goes, a deficiency is linked to a 51 percent higher risk of developing dementia.
Here’s to better sleep for a rested, healthy brain.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
How Blue Light Affects Sleep — Sleep Foundation