Sleep Disruption Increases Alzheimer's Risk

Trouble Sleeping Linked to Alzheimer's

Scientists found an increase in amyloid beta and tau, the two proteins believed to cause the disease, after disrupting the sleep of volunteers.

Each time the participants drifted into deep sleep, a beeping monitor would rouse them out of it and into lighter sleep. This is the toxic protein forming plaque in the brains of those with Alzheimer's.

His study, published in the journal Brain, found that one night of disrupted sleep increases a healthy adult's levels of a brain protein called amyloid beta, and a week of bad sleep increases another brain protein called tau. "But we could see, when the participants had several bad nights in a row at home, that their tau levels had risen".

If you're skipping out on a good night's sleep, you might want to reconsider it.

"Because brain cells release amyloid beta during activity, we think if the brain cells can't rest the way they're supposed to and get that deep sleep, they produce a relative excess of amyloid", Ju said.

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

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One of the functions of sleep is to wash neurotoxins from the brain, including beta-amyloid proteins, which other research has shown can worsen sleep. "We think that perhaps chronic poor sleep during middle age may increase the risk of Alzheimer's later in life".

Previous studies showed that one night... "While this contributes to a growing body of evidence which highlights the importance of good sleep, the study didn't test whether people went on to develop Alzheimer's, so we can't yet say whether better sleep could reduce risk of the disease", he said.

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".

How well, not how much, people sleep may affect Alzheimer's disease risk.

At the end of the period, they spent a night asleep in the laboratory where they had their brain-waves tracked and, the following morning, they each had a lumbar puncture taken.

While certain drugs and even sound stimuli have been used experimentally to promote slow-wave sleep, he noted, "not just the presence but the timing of the slow waves may be really important".

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