“Sleep Disturbance Linked to Amyloid in Brain Areas Affected by Alzheimer’s Disease”
This research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Aging, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and the Clinical and Translational Science Award Program and presented at the recent 2014 Annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
According to scientists at the University of Wisconsin, poor sleep quality may well be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The study found that brain scans of a group of older people with no mental health problems who reported trouble sleeping were more likely to have a build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain—a protein that is found in high concentrations in Alzheimer’s patients.
Do people sleep badly and feel less rested because they are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or does a lack of sleep contribute to development of the disease? Researchers say more study is necessary. In a statement, lead researcher Ruth Benca says: “We still need to determine whether sleep disturbance promotes amyloid deposition in the brain, or if a neurodegenerative process produces disordered sleep.”
Commenting on the findings in an emailed statement to online WebMD, Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society says: “This study adds to an existing body of research suggesting that poor quality sleep is associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. However, while those who reported less restful sleep in this study were more likely to have amyloid in certain regions of their brain, we do not know whether this would be enough to cause cognitive decline or dementia. Some elderly people have amyloid plaques in their brains but never go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, so it is far too early to say whether the amount of sleep you regularly get is important in the development of dementia and those who have a bad night’s sleep should not worry.”