Do you find yourself needing excessive daytime naps? If so, it may be an early indicator of a developing brain problem. 

Recent research out of the University of California - San Francisco has found that excessive daytime napping can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and can develop long before any of the associated memory problems.

Previous studies have considered excessive daytime napping to be a compensation for poor night time sleep, since Alzheimer’s has been thought to disrupt the sleep centers of the brain. Other researchers have argued that the sleep problems themselves contribute to the progression of the disease. Recently, UC-San Francisco researchers have found evidence that the disease directly infiltrates brain regions responsible for wakefulness during the day.

This new research shows implicates these brain regions as being the first impacted by the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, excessive daytime napping, especially in the absence of any night time sleep disruption, could serve as an early warning sign of the disease. The neurodegeneration in these regions is due to the accumulation of a protein called “tau”, which is found from the very earliest stages of the disease. 

If you’re experiencing excessive daytime napping, what should you do? Get your brain tested. Because this is a very early warning sign, most medical tests (i.e. brain scans, blood tests) would probably come back negative (i.e. the disease hasn’t progressed enough to show alterations). You need to be tested “functionally” - meaning testing that reveals HOW your brain is working. There are numerous ways to do this and one test we use in our office is called ‘Right Eye’. 

‘Right Eye’ is computerized eye tracking equipment that tests your ability to: 

  • follow an object that moves across the screen
  • move your eyes quickly between objects on the screen 
  • staying fixated on an object on the screen 

Your ability to do these things is one of the best windows into how your brain is functioning. Depending on the test, it shows us specifically what part or parts of the brain are struggling. ‘Right Eye’ will compare your results with people in your age bracket and generate a Brain Health Score.

There are other tests we use to specifically evaluate the frontal lobe portion of your brain. This is the area responsible for our ‘executive functions’ and is the most affected in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If these tests are off, it may be a sign of frontal lobe decline. Once we have established a baseline measurement we can then see if our therapies are working for you. If we can improve the findings, there is a good chance we can slow down or stop any progression. If you’re experiencing excessive daytime napping or other signs of cognitive decline (i.e. memory issues, balance problems, etc.), consider having us test you. The earlier the better when it comes to this!  

Gregory Frick, DC DACNB

Gregory Frick, DC DACNB


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