Prolonged Restless Sleep Could Increase Risk Of Alzheimer's

Without proper deep sleep, brain cells continue to churn out, producing more A-beta and tau than a well-rested brain.

"Previous evidence has shown that sleep may influence the development or progression of Alzheimer's disease in various ways", explained study author Barbara B. Bendlin, PhD, "For example, disrupted sleep or lack of sleep may lead to amyloid plaque buildup because the brain's clearance system kicks into action during sleep. We think that perhaps chronic poor sleep during middle age may increase the risk of Alzheimer's later in life". This is the toxic protein forming plaque in the brains of those with Alzheimer's. Past studies have shown that amyloid beta levels drop during sleep and rise during wakefulness, and that just one night of sleep deprivation increases amyloid beta levels, Ju's team writes in the journal Brain. And once a person has the disease, disruptions in the brain may make it hard to sleep.

Each time the participants drifted into deep sleep, a beeping monitor would rouse them out of it and into lighter sleep. In the second session, slow-wave sleep was not interrupted.

Not getting enough sleep doesn't feel good - and could have some scary long-term consequences. Participants were surveyed about sleep quality.

Researchers surveyed 101 people at high risk of developing Alzheimers disease who had normal thinking and memory abilities.


Dr. Rao noted that while the study shows a link between sleep and Alzheimers its a bit of a ‘chicken and egg scenario, in that doctors arent sure what comes first – the Alzheimers or the sleep problems. A week after those disrupted nights, researchers found higher levels of Tau, the tangled proteins also associated with Alzheimer's, in the volunteers' spinal fluid as well.

Dr Doug Brown, of Alzheimer's Society, said: "Research is emerging that indicates poor quality sleep may be associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's".

"Effective interventions are available to treat causes of poor sleep, so identifying and treating sleep disturbances in preclinical [Alzheimer's disease] may be a critical strategy to prevent or delay impending cognitive decline", they wrote.

"This is yet another piece of information that suggests that sleep disruption certainly can be a risk for development of subsequent Alzheimer's disease", said Dr. Andrew Varga, a neuroscientist and neurologist at The Mount Sinai Integrative Sleep Center in New York City who studies sleep and Alzheimer's. It's only people with longer sleep problems that may be at risk.


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