New research in the US found that sleep problems in healthy people can be an indicator that they may continue to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has conducted research on this and demonstrated the quality of sleep can be attributed to the disease.
“Previous evidence has shown that sleep can affect the development or progression of Alzheimer’s disease in various ways,” explains study author Barbara B. Bendlin, PhD. “For example, deep sleep or lack of sleep can cause amyloid plaque buildup due to the brain. The clearance system begins during sleep. Our study not only looked at amyloid but also for other biological markers in spinal fluid.
Amyloid is a protein that can fold and form plaque in the brain, while other proteins, Tau, are formed into tangles. Both plaque and tangles are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease.
For the new study, the team recruited 101 people with an average age of 63 people who had normal thinking and memory, but were at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Participants provided information on the quality of sleep and their spinal fluid samples, which then tested the biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease, including amyloid signs, tau and brain cell damage and swelling
The results, published in the online edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, show that those who report poorer sleep quality, more sleep problems and daytime sleepiness have more biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease in their spinal fluid than people people who have no sleep problems
The results remain valid even after researchers take into account other factors such as drugs for sleep disorders, education, depressive symptoms or body mass index.
However, not everyone who has sleep problems has a biological marker in their spinal fluid, with the team finding no association for obstructive sleep apnea sleep problems.
Bendlin noted that, “It remains unclear whether sleep can affect the progression of the disease or if it affects sleep quality, and further research is needed to determine the relationship between sleep and this biomarker.”
Moreover, he also added, “There are already many effective ways to improve sleep, and perhaps early intervention for people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease may prevent or delay the onset of the disease.”
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