Can Poor Sleep Lead To Alzheimer’s?

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Can Poor Sleep Lead To Alzheimer's?
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Poor sleep could be doing damage to your brain; a new study has shown. Researchers from Stanford University and Washington Medical School found out that even one night of poor sleep is enough to stimulate a brain chemical responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s study. This chemical is named amyloid beta, which can clump together and stop brain cells communicating with each other. The study first appeared in Neurology, the publication of the American Journal of Neurology. [1]

The American study used 101 middle aged healthy adults to investigate the relationship between sleep quality and levels of various proteins and inflammatory markers in their spinal fluids. The researchers wanted to know if the participant’s spinal fluids contain plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s. Other factors such as age, a family history of Alzheimer’s, and evidence of the APOE gene, which is associated with a greater chance of developing the disease, were controlled by the study.

The study concluded that there is an increase in spinal fluid indicators of Alzheimer’s disease in people with sleep problems, daytime sleepiness, and poor quality sleep. The findings posit the impact of repeated disruption of slow wave sleep on the buildup of proteins linked to the disease.

According to co-author Barbara Bendlin of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre, the study opened avenues for them to explore the markers related to Alzheimer’s disease such as plaques and tangles. They were also able to look at the markers of inflammation and nerve cell damage.

Bendlin noted the willingness of the participants to undergo a lumbar puncture to help in furthering research on Alzheimer’s disease. Lumbar puncture is a medical procedure used by neurologists and surgeons to analyze the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The procedure involves the use of a needle which is inserted into the spinal cord to collect cerebrospinal fluid for diagnostic testing. [2]

Bendlin and colleagues believe that their findings are important. Their data support the idea that there is an association between sleep quality and the accumulation of Alzheimer-related proteins in the brain. Bendlin is positive about their findings which she stresses will provide a window of opportunity for intervention.

The new study has been widely received in the medical community. For Dr. Yo-El Ju, a neurology professor at Washington University’s Sleep Medicine Center, the study provided another insight into Alzheimer’s disease. He commended the research for discovering the influence of daytime sleepiness on early changes of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Ju is a sleep science expert who authored another study on the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s. Published in the medical journal Brain, the study revealed that a week of poor sleep could lead to an increase in beta amyloid, the brain protein linked to brain damage in Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. [3]

For Tara Spires-Jones of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh, Bendlin et al. and Ju et al. are the first studies to show the biological link between sleep and accumulation of proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease in humans. However, the studies failed to examine the positive impact of better sleep on the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. This observation was also forwarded by Dr. Doug Brown, director of research at British charity Alzheimer’s Society. He argues that the exact relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s risk remains unclear despite the evidence offered by the studies on the importance of good quality sleep to keeping the brain healthy. [4]

Further Reading:

List Of 10 Foods Considered Helpful To Fight Alzheimer’’s Disease

Study Finds Lack Of Sleep May Lead To Brain Shrinkage

20 Foods To Help You Sleep Better


[1] Sprecher KE et al. July 5, 2017. Poor sleep is associated with CSF biomarkers of amyloid pathology in cognitively normal adults.

[2] U.S. National Library of Medicine. PubMed Health. Lumbar Puncture.

[3] Ju Y-E S et al. July 10, 2017. Slow wave sleep disruption increases cerebrospinal fluid amyloid-ß levels.

[4] Andy R. Eugene and Jolanta Masiak. March 2015. MEDtube Science. The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep.

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