New research indicates that poor sleep may be linked strongly to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers this week presented the findings of their new study on the role of sleep in the development of the debilitating condition that robs its victims of memory. They said that disrupted sleep may be one of the missing pieces in explaining how a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, a sticky protein called beta-amyloid, starts its damage long before people have trouble with memory.
The new research suggests that sleep problems actually interact with some of the disease processes involved in Alzheimer’s, and that those toxic proteins in turn affect the deep sleep that’s so important for memory formation.
The scientists gave PET scans to 26 cognitively healthy volunteers in their 70s to measure build-up of that gunky amyloid. They were given words to memorize, and their brain waves were measured as they slept overnight. The more amyloid people harbored in a particular brain region, the less deep sleep they got – and the more they forgot overnight. Their memories weren’t transferred properly from the brain’s short-term memory bank into longer-term storage.
What’s the risk over time? Two sleep studies tracked nearly 6,000 people over five years, and found those who had poor sleep quality – they tossed and turned and had a hard time falling asleep – were more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, early memory problems that sometimes lead to Alzheimer’s.