Disrupted sleep may be one of the missing pieces in explaining how a sticky protein called beta-amyloid, starts its damage long before people have trouble with memory as it turns into Alzheimer’s, researchers reported Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
“It’s very clear that sleep disruption is an under appreciated factor,” said Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, who presented data linking amyloid levels with people’s sleep and memory performance. “It’s a new player on the scene that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Scientists have long known that people who don’t get enough sleep have trouble learning and focusing. The optimal sleep duration is 7-9 hours, although individual variability exists. And anyone who’s cared for someone with dementia knows the nightly wandering and other sleep disturbances that patients often suffer, long thought to be a consequence of the dying brain cells. New research suggests that toxic proteins affect deep sleep that is so important for memory formation.
PET scans were given to cognitively healthy volunteers in their 70s to measure build-up of that gunky amyloid. The participants were given words to memorize, and their brain waves were measured as they slept overnight. The more beta-amyloid people harbored in a particular brain region, the less deep sleep they got. The participant’s memories were not being transferred properly from the brain’s short-term memory bank into longer-term storage.
Results of the study as whole:
Two sleep studies tracked nearly 6,000 people over five years, and found those who had poor sleep quality – they tossed and turned and had a hard time falling asleep – were more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, early memory problems that sometimes lead to Alzheimer’s, said Dr. Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco.
The report went into further detail to say Obstructive Sleep Apnea, can increase ones chance for Alzheimer’s. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder defined as the unconscious stoppage of breathing for short periods of time throughout a night’s sleep. With OSA, there is a soft tissue obstruction of the upper airway, which negatively impacts the flow of air. Pauses in breathing can be just a few seconds to minutes, and occur as little as five to as many as 30 times per hour. The pauses in breathing keeps waking the subject up never allow for deep sleep. The more a person in unable to get deep sleep the higher the amount of beta-amyloid builds up in the brain reducing memory function. These conclusions have led the physicians monitoring the study to believe that Alzheimer’s is linked to sleep disorders in this way.
More than 5 million Americans already have Alzheimer’s, a number expected to more than double by 2050. Results show the easiest ways to combat the effect of Alzheimer’s now is to treat sleep disorders effectively. Sleep disorders are treatable and can reduce one risk for developing Alzheimer’s immensely.
If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, been diagnosed or would like to find out how you can avoid the high risk of developing other conditions, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a consultation.