Poor Sleep May Predict Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

Another study came out today reminding us to have a good night’s sleep. The study claims to have found a link between poor sleep quality and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

We’ve long known that people with Alzheimer’s suffer sleep issues such as insomnia, nighttime wandering and daytime sleepiness. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, is known to lead to a host of chronic conditions including diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

In previous studies, inadequate sleep was proved to lead to a build-up of harmful proteins known as amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid plaques and tau tangles- another type of protein within nerve cells- are a hallmark of AD.

The latest study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US adds to the growing evidence that disrupted sleep increases the risk of developing memory-robbing mental disorder in later life.

The researchers affirmed other biomarkers in the body can also indicate that a person is at risk of developing the neurological disease. They looked at levels of various proteins and inflammatory markers in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and tried to investigate how poor sleep impacted these biomarkers.

“What’s new about our study is that participants were somewhat younger than in prior studies, none of them had dementia yet, and we also were able to look at these novel markers in CSF,” said study author Barbara B. Bendlin, PhD, associate professor, medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

The researchers conducted spinal fluid tests on 101 men and women with an average age of 63 who did not have any cognitive problems but had a family history of Alzheimer’s or carried a gene linked to the development of the condition.

After examining their self-reported responses and samples of their spinal fluid, the researchers found that individuals in the study who reported the poor sleep quality, suffered from daytime drowsiness, or more sleep-related issues had more biological markers for Alzheimer’s in their spinal fluid, in comparison to those without sleep problems.

“The results are, again, providing support that quality of sleep and brain changes may be linked. But the follow-up to that would be to see if modifying sleep could potentially protect the brain,” Bendlin added.

“It’s still unclear if sleep may affect the development of the disease or if the disease affects the quality of sleep. More research is needed to further define the relationship between sleep and these biomarkers,” she concluded.

The research was published online July 5 in Neurology, the journal for the American Academy of Neurology.