Newsletter Article

Can early sleep issues help predict cognitive disorders later in life?

September 2017

A good night’s sleep can leave you refreshed and ready to start the day. However, not getting enough sleep not only leaves you feeling tired and foggy, but it has also been linked to a higher risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Approximately 45% of the world’s population does not get enough sleep.[1]

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other cognitive disorders experience sleep issues such as insomnia, nighttime wandering, and daytime sleepiness. These symptoms are common for people with these conditions, but researchers explored whether sleep issues earlier in life can have an impact on the risk for developing these diseases.

Researchers followed subjects from the Framingham Heart Study.[2] Sleep cycles and cognitive skills were measured at regular frequencies for each subject. After 12 years, 32 of the 321 subjects followed developed dementia, with 24 of those being classified as having Alzheimer’s. The findings showed that subjects who took longer than the typical 90 minutes to enter REM sleep were more likely to develop dementia. Those subjects also spent an average of 17% of their sleep in the REM stage, compared to 20% in the subjects who did not develop dementia. There were no associations found for any of the other 4 stages of sleep.

Research is showing that disturbed sleep can lead to higher levels of soluble beta amyloid.[3] This is the protein that creates plaques in brain tissue that block nerve signals and can cause those cells to be destroyed. In research using mice, the mice that showed increases in beta amyloid levels due to disturbed sleep were able to reduce those levels by sleeping well.

Another protein that may be responsible for some of the signs of Alzheimer’s is tau.[4] Tau is responsible for cell stability and structure. Damaged tau can create tau-tangle accumulation. In a study that examined spinal fluid from subjects, those with sleep issues were more likely to show evidence of tau pathology. These findings were from middle-aged, cognitively healthy subjects. This suggests that there may be an early way to detect those at risk for Alzheimer’s and present an intervention period before symptoms start to show. They also found that daytime sleepiness, and not just disrupted nighttime sleeping, was associated with early changes of Alzheimer’s.

Healthy sleeping habits are being shown to be more important than we previously thought. It is vital for short-term recovery and well-being, but this evidence shows that our habits throughout life can have a large impact on our cognitive abilities later in life.


Ginger is a zesty spice found in a variety of fall recipes, with a flavor that is best described as aromatic, pungent, and spicy.[5] The ginger we consume is actually the root part of the plant known as a rhizome. Depending on the variety, the flesh can be white, yellow, or red, and it is covered by a brownish skin. Fresh ginger is much more flavorful and contains more anti-inflammatory compounds than the dried version.

One of the most common uses for ginger is as an herbal medicine for gastrointestinal distress. It was shown in a study to be more effective at preventing the symptoms of motion sickness than dramamine, a common drug used for motion sickness. Ginger’s ability to reduce dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating makes it a useful tool for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Ginger is extremely safe to consume, and it does not carry a risk of birth defects like the antivomiting drugs that are available.

Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which have been shown to decrease the amount of pro-inflammatory compounds produced by the synovial lining of the joints. For this reason, ginger has been shown to help relieve symptoms in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

When selecting ginger, choose pieces that are firm and free from mold. The more common type of ginger found in supermarkets is the mature form, which has a tough skin that needs to be peeled. Young ginger can be found in some Asian markets and does not need to be peeled. If left unpeeled, ginger can be stored for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

DIY Pickled Ginger

1 large knob of ginger (approximately 6 inches long)
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup rice vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt


Rinse the ginger and use a spoon to gently scrape off the skin. Using a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or sharp knife, slice the ginger crosswise very thinly. You should have around 1 cup of sliced ginger. Place it into a sterilized jar. In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, vinegar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat and then pour over ginger. Once the liquid cools slightly, cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. Pickled ginger will keep in the fridge up to two weeks.

Recipe from Food52:

Exercise Safety in CKD Patients

Your kidneys are responsible for removing waste products and excess fluid.[6] They are also needed for regulating mineral levels and acid content, among many other important functions. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) includes several conditions that damage the kidneys and affect their ability to properly perform these functions. The two main cause of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. The major cause of death for those with CKD is heart disease.

Part of the increased risk for heart disease in these patients is the gradual dysfunction of endothelial cells. It has been hypothesized that exercise could help to reverse endothelial dysfunction in CKD patients.[7] It would help by improving endothelial cell L-arginine uptake in the these patients.

Exercise has not typically been a therapy method due to a lack of understanding of the safety aspects for patients with CKD.[8] Researchers evaluated the acute effects of a 30-minute moderate-intensity aerobic exercise activity on non-dialysis patients. There were no within-group changes in serum or urinary creatinine across time, as well as albuminaria. Overall, the 30 minute bout did not impair renal function in the non-dialysis patients, regardless of their disease stage. This may lead to CKD patients being able to exercise and increases their lifespan, as well as their quality of life.

Health Matters is written by Lindsey Guthrie, MS, RD, LD/N and Tyler Guthrie, MS, CSCS.


  1. World Sleep Day. Toolkit.
  2. Pase MP, Himali JJ, Grima NA, et al. Sleep architecture and the risk of incident dementia in the community. Neurology. 2017; 10-1212.
  3. CNN. Can poor sleep lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia?
  4. Sprecher KE, Koscik RL, Carlsson CM, et al. Poor sleep is associated with CSF biomarkers of amyloid pathology in cognitively normal adults. Neurology. 2017; 89(5): 445.
  5. The George Mateljan Foundation. Ginger.
  6. National Kidney Foundation. About Chronic Kidney Disease.
  7. Martins CR, Kirkman DL, Edwards DG. The vascular endothelium in chronic kidney disease: A novel target for aerobic exercise. Exercise and Sport Sciences. 2016; 44(1): 12.
  8. De Santana DA, Poortmans JR, Dorea EL, et al. Acute exercise does not impair renal function in non-dialysis chronic kidney disease patients regardless of disease stage. American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology. 2017.

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