Lack of sleep increases risk of Alzheimer's

Posted July 12, 2017

Researchers at Washington University's School of Medicine found sleep disruption leads to an increase in two proteins that are connected with the disease.

The study was based on an admittedly small group of people, just 17 healthy adults aged between 35 and 65. This is thought to be because amyloid levels change more quickly than tau levels. Researchers had the participants sleep while wearing headphones and monitored their brain activity.

Participants provided the team with information about their sleep quality as well as spinal fluid samples, which were then tested for biological markers of Alzheimer's disease, including signs of amyloid, tau and brain cell damage and inflammation. 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. Thus, the researches came to the conclusion that poor quality of sleep, daytime sleepiness and sleep problems are connected to increase this disease.

"The worse someone's sleep quality, the more their amyloid beta and tau increase, and both amyloid beta and tau are involved in Alzheimer's over the long-term", Ju told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

These are all treatable and can help you get the recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

In the short term, a bad night's sleep won't do much worse than leave you feeling groggy and grumpy.

Prolonged periods of poor sleep could increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, although quality, not quantity, is at the root of the issue, research has revealed.

The other half slept free of any interruption, and the next morning all participants underwent a spinal tap to analyse the amyloid beta and tau in their brain and spinal fluid. "We think that perhaps chronic poor sleep during middle age may increase the risk of Alzheimer's later in life".

"There are things that we can all improve upon to get the best sleep that we are capable of", Ju said.

These findings support a growing body of evidence that lack of Zs is linked to Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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".