Study suggests link between poor sleep and Alzheimer's

Not all forms of sleep problems may be a sign of Alzheimer’s

"Poor sleep is associated with higher levels of two Alzheimer's-associated proteins", said David M. Holtzman, a neurology professor from Washington University School of Medicine, in a statement. Half slept with headphones on, while the other half of the group were sent a series of beeps that gradually got louder and forced the participants from a deep sleep into a shallower sleep.

Scientists found interrupted slumber raises levels of toxic proteins in our bodies that are tell-tale signs of the incurable disease. Participants were surveyed about sleep quality.

His study, published in the journal Brain, found that one night of disrupted sleep increases a healthy adult's levels of a brain protein called amyloid beta, and a week of bad sleep increases another brain protein called tau.

She said: "The main concern is with people who have chronic sleep problems". They found a 10 percent increase in the former after the single night of disrupted sleep, and an increase in the latter for those who had slept poorly for more days at home.

"[The study] shows specifically that slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, is important for lowering the levels of amyloid overnight", said Yo-El Ju, a neurologist at the University of Washington at Saint Louis and a co-author of the research.

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"Tau takes much longer to get from the brain down to the lower back where the spinal fluid is measured, so for tau we looked at sleep in the preceding week as we had measured it with an actigraph", Ju said.

The study did not test whether people went on to develop Alzheimer's but their findings may explain why poor sleep has been associated with the onset of dementia. But, she noted, not all participants showed a response to the sleep disruption - a result Ju says is down to them having little slow wave sleep in the first place. Both plaques and tangles are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers surveyed 101 people at high risk of developing Alzheimers disease who had normal thinking and memory abilities.

Spinal taps showed that the more deep sleep people missed out on, the higher their levels of A-beta in the morning.

Certain illnesses can cause sleepless nights like depression, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

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