Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have suggested a possible link between inadequate sleep and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
They have found that a marker for Alzheimer’s disease rises during day and falls with sleep in the spinal fluid, and the pattern is strongest in healthy young people than the older counterparts, whose sleep periods are often shorter and more prone to disruption.
In the new study, scientists report that the normal highs and lows of amyloid beta levels in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord begin to flatten in older adults.
“In healthy people, levels of amyloid beta drop to their lowest point about six hours after sleep, and return to their highest point six hours after maximum wakefulness,” said Randall Bateman, MD, associate professor of neurology.
Bateman’s laboratory conducted the study in partnership with Washington University’s Sleep Medicine Centre.
Stephen Duntley, MD, professor of neurology and director of the Centre added, “We’ve known for some time that significant sleep deprivation has negative effects on cognitive function comparable to that of alcohol intoxication.”
“But it’s recently become apparent that prolonged sleep disruption and deprivation can actually play an important role in pathological processes that underlie diseases.
“This connection to Alzheimer’s disease isn’t confirmed yet in humans, but it could be very important,” he stated.
The study has been published online in Archives of Neurology.