Physicians are studying the effects of poor quality sleep on Alzheimer's
If people sleep too little often, the attention, performance and even health of those affected can suffer. Researchers have now found that poor sleep can also increase the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists found that poor sleep in humans increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Neurology".
Doctors perform spinal fluid tests on more than 100 subjects
The experts from the USA carried out so-called spinal fluid tests on a total of 101 people with an average age of 63 years. All of these subjects had a family history of Alzheimer's disease or had a gene that is associated with an increased risk of disease, the researchers explain.
Poor sleep is related to increased biological markers for Alzheimer's
When the participants suffered from poor sleep quality or daytime sleepiness, they had more biological markers for Alzheimer's compared to people without sleep problems, the scientists say.
Physicians examine participants' beta amyloid levels
The researchers looked for signs of beta-amyloid in their study. These protein deposits in the brain are linked to the development of Alzheimer's and the development of the so-called tau tangles (protein nodes, which are also associated with Alzheimer's). Earlier research had shown that sleep can affect the development or progress of Alzheimer's disease in different ways, explains author Dr. Barbara Bendlin.
Poor sleep leads to the build-up of amyloid plaque
Impaired sleep or lack of sleep can cause amyloid plaque to build up. The current study examined the spinal fluid not only for amyloid, but also for other biological markers, the scientists explain. Not every subject with sleep problems had abnormalities in their spinal fluid. There was also no link between biological markers for Alzheimer's and obstructive sleep apnea, the researchers add. The results obtained persisted even after factors such as the use of medication for sleep problems, level of education, depressive symptoms and the body mass index (BMI) were taken into account.
More research is needed
It is still unclear whether sleep can affect the development of the disease or whether the disease affects sleep quality. Further research on this topic is now necessary to define the relationship between sleep and these biomarkers more precisely. It is quite possible that early intervention for sleep problems can prevent or at least delay the onset of the disease, the experts speculate.
Good sleep quality can protect the brain
Poor sleep appears to be associated with signs of Alzheimer's. In contrast, good sleep quality can contribute to a healthy brain, say the doctors. The answer now is whether poor sleep is associated with the risk of Alzheimer's or whether people sleep poorly due to Alzheimer's disease. (as)