Best sleeping position for Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

On your back, on your stomach, on your side – When you sleep or sleep at night, what position do you usually sleep in?

A pre-clinical study suggests how sleeping, especially when lying on your side (also called side sleeping), can help clear waste from the brain while you sleep. This waste disposal is essential for performing brain functions like problem solving, reasoning, and attention to detail—all while maintaining a healthy mind.

Australian researchers specifically wanted to know how the glymphatic system, a network of vessels that helps remove waste in the brain, can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most common motor neuron disease affecting nerve cells, of the brain and spinal cord. People with ALS can gradually lose their ability to speak, eat, move, and breathe.

The glymphatic system and its role in brain waste disposal

When you don’t sleep enough or at all, brain cells called neurons use up large amounts of energy. When this happens, neurons shed debris that can swim around in the brain and prevent it from functioning normally. This debris — made up of leftover proteins — can then form clumps that are toxic to the brain.

Accumulation of these types of proteins (including amyloid beta) has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and dementia.

Natalie Dotovic, Ph.D., an environmental researcher at the National Sleep Foundation and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, told older adults that the glymphatic system is the brain’s “housekeeper” and is essential for clearing the brain of waste . The system is also more active during sleep. However, she said when we are sleep deprived, the system is largely inactive, which allows neural waste to build up.

“The glymphatic system uses cerebrospinal fluid to clear neural debris from the brain,” she said. “Recent cutting-edge research shows that sleep is essential to creating the optimal environment for this ‘brainwashing’. »

Research has also been done on rodents, according to David Wright, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Monash University.

However, the reasons why certain modes are more effective in assisting the glymphatic system in removing brain waste products are not fully understood at this time, but may be due to the “effects of gravity, pressure and stretching of the brain”. adds Wright.

How To Improve Glymphatic System Function (In Addition To Sleep)

Although experts are still learning about the role of the glymphatic system in neurological function, there are small lifestyle changes that can improve brain waste disposal and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. According to Wright, some of these changes include:

  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption – In rat studies, exposure to moderate amounts of alcohol has been shown to improve lymphatic system function, while high doses of alcohol have the opposite effect.
  • Participating in sports – regular exercise has also been found to improve memory and cognition in neurodegenerative diseases and may help with lymphatic cleansing.
  • You Consume Certain Vitamins – Look for supplies that may support omega-3 or fish oil pills in promoting the elimination of proteins from the brain and positively impacting glymphatic function.

While these are worth investigating, Wright said more research is needed “to focus on treatments that target the glymphatic system directly to help those already suffering from these debilitating conditions.”

What else do you want to know about studying?

To answer the role the glymphatic system plays in preventing ALS, Wright and his colleagues turned to mice.

Some mice have been genetically engineered to express the human ALS-related protein, a protein called TDP-43. Some of the mice were fed a diet containing an antibiotic called doxycycline, which allowed the researchers to turn off TDP-43 expression and eventually allowed the mice to age normally. However, when the transgenic mice were switched to regular chow, TDP-43 expression was activated and toxic proteins began to accumulate.

They found that over time, the genetically modified mice showed classic signs of ALS, including progressive muscle weakness, brain atrophy and neuronal loss.

“What the study showed was that the ALS brain in the mice actually had reduced cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) clearance compared to the normal brain,” said Santosh Kesari, MD (Ph.D, not part of the study), SeniorsMatter said .

Decreased cerebrospinal fluid clearance in the brain is believed to contribute to the development of many diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

In addition, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers found that the genetically modified mice had a harder time clearing waste from the brain than control mice.

“Our study provides the first evidence that the glymphatic system could be a potential therapeutic target in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” wrote Wright. Conversation. “Sleeping position is also thought to affect glymphatic clearance. »

The onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms is often misleading and diagnosis can still be difficult. Therefore, the definitive diagnosis is often delayed and misdiagnosis is common. “The imaging techniques we use can help clinicians make an early diagnosis, offer treatment and enable early enrollment in clinical trials. »

How to promote restful, quality sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends these practices for better sleep:

  1. Spend time in bright light during the day.
  2. Regular training.
  3. Eat your meals at set times each day
  4. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and heavy meals before bed.
  5. Stick to a sleep routine or schedule.
  6. Avoid electronic and other devices before bed.

Finding the right pillow can make sleeping more comfortable or encourage side sleeping. A good pillow helps align your neck with your spine while you sleep. It can also properly support the head to keep it in alignment and prevent it from tipping towards the mattress.

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