People who get too little sleep may have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
The study, by academics at the University of Caen in Normandy, demonstrates that getting the right amount of sleep could prevent the formation of clusters of a protein called amyloid-beta (also known as plaques) which are associated with the condition.
Earlier studies have shown that poor sleep is common in Alzheimer’s patients but the latest paper argued that the quality of sleep seemed to be directly linked to plaque deposits on the brain.
The study’s lead author, Pierre Branger, said: ‘Our results indicate that poor sleep quality in older, asymptomatic individuals is associated with greater amyloid-beta burden and lower brain volume in brain areas known to be sensitive to ageing and amyloid-beta processes.’
‘Sleep may, therefore, play a role in protecting against age and Alzheimer’s-related brain changes.
‘In addition, chronic sleep restriction — four hours of sleep per night — for 21 days significantly increased amyloid-beta deposition in multiple brain areas. Further studies are needed to better understand the effect of the interaction between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers.’
The paper recommended that, for most people, an optimal amount of sleep is seven to eight hours. It said maintaining a regular sleep pattern and “avoiding sleep fragmentation” would help the quality of sleep. It also called for the treatment of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Last year a study found that insufficient sleep may increase your risk of catching a cold by a factor of four.
Alheizmer’s disease is still not fully understood and appears to involve a number of different factors. The current hypothesis is that Alzheimer’s is due to abnormal proteins being deposited in the brain. These affect brain function, leading to the symptoms that sufferers and their families are sadly all too aware of.
Sleep disruption is known to affect cognitive performance, memory and the ability to reason in healthy individuals without brain pathology.
This study was a review article. It looked at research establishing a correlation between disrupted sleep and the build-up of this abnormal protein, known as amyloid beta.
The evidence suggests a role for sleep deprivation as part of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The take-home message is that, while the research is still in a preliminary phase, the importance of adequate sleep on optimal health in general is such that we should all endeavour to get enough.
Research score: 3/5