Sleep Deprivation and Alzheimer’s

A new study to be published in the Archives of Neurology reports levels of amyloid beta, a byproduct of brain activity considered a marker in Alzheimer’s disease, normally rises during the day and decreases at night. Authors of the study suggest a possible link between sleep deprivation and people’s risk for developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s.

It is well established that reduced sleep can lead to cognitive dysfunction. However, prolonged sleep disturbance may play a role in pathologic processes underlying disease.

The authors indicate that levels of amyloid beta increase and decrease naturally. In healthy people, levels of the protein drop to their lowest level about six hours after sleep and then return to their highest levels six hours after peak wakefulness. The transition from sleep to wakefulness strongly correlated with the rise and fall of amyloid beta. The relationship was most pronounced in healthy, young people and less so in older adults who suffer shorter or more prolonged periods of disrupted sleep.

The authors suggested that the brain’s low activity during sleep allows the body to clear amyloid beta through the spinal fluid. Levels of the protein in Alzheimer’s patients, however, appear to be constant. The authors note that more research is needed, but there are reasons to believe that better sleep may be helpful in promoting brain health and reducing risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep may be a factor in the known relationship between exercise and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s as sleep is related to enhanced sleep.

4 thoughts on “Sleep Deprivation and Alzheimer’s

  1. Christina Sevilla

    I have always heard and believed that getting sleep is the best way to boost your memory. I also had my mom tell me repeatedly not to “cram” for a test the night before but to study and sleep to remember the topic better. I appreciate you telling the more detailed information about why that is. Thanks!

  2. Joseph

    The effects of prolonged sleep deprivation are fairly well-established but even this took me a back while reading it. With over 30 million Americans suffering from various sleep disorders, this is certainly an interesting development.

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