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Could your midafternoon slump be an indicator of this degenerative disease?


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Photo: Stocksy/Peter Bernik

Even if you log a solid eight hours of sleep, wake up feeling fresh, and receive a chiller-than-usual workload at the office, 3 p.m. still might hit you like a ton of bricks. The midafternoon workday slump is a legit adversary, even if you’re stocked with an arsenal of energizing healthy snacks and essential oils at your desk. But if your sleepiness is more of a constant and debilitating ordeal than an annoying afternoon struggle, you might want to take a closer look.

A new study published in JAMA Neurology analyzed whether “excessive” daytime sleepiness may be an indicator of an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and identified some interesting key findings. Past research has found that while you snooze, your brain clears away deposits of amyloid—the protein responsible for destroying the nerve cells in patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s—but before this study, scientists didn’t know if a natural buildup of amyloid led to disrupted sleep or if disrupted sleep contributed to the buildup.

Prashanthi Vemuri, PhD, an associate professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic, tasked her team with finding insight to this question by jumping on an already underway study of 3,000 older people from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. From that group, Dr. Vemuri selected 283 dementia-free adults aged at least 70 years old to take consistent amyloid-monitoring brain scans and answer questions about their sleep habits throughout the course of a seven-year study.

About 22 percent of participants who reported having daytime sleepiness at the start of the study were more likely to have increased levels of amyloid buildup throughout the seven-year period, according to Time.

About 22 percent of participants who reported experiencing daytime sleepiness at the beginning of the study were more likely to have increased levels of amyloid buildup throughout the seven-year period. What’s more concerning is the protein accumulated the most in the regions of the brain that usually show high amounts of amyloid in people who have Alzheimer’s, according to Time.

The study doesn’t totally answer whether excess amyloid production causes a sleep issue or vice versa, but it does provide even more evidence that sleep and brain health are likely intertwined. So, for heaven’s sake, get in those zzz’s, please—and maybe talk to a doc if you really can’t.

If falling asleep tends to be tricky for you (guilty), try one of these seven unconventional tricks from experts or this breathing exercise

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