Last month we wrote about a new study that described how the brain cleans itself as we sleep by flushing out the toxins accumulated during our waking hours. We noted that the results of this study are of great interest to Alzheimer’s researchers because one of the byproducts that is cleaned out daily is beta-amyloid, clumps of which form plaques found in the brains of AD (Alzheimers Disease) patients.
Sleep patterns have previously been linked to beta-amyloid plaques. Researchers from The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health have observed that those with AD spend more time awake and have more fragmented sleep patterns than those without the disease. They wanted to determine whether there was a link between beta-amyloid deposits and sleep within community-dwelling older adults.
The test group for their study consisted of 70 adults with an average age of 76; none of the participants had any form of dementia. They were asked to record their sleep patterns which included the duration of sleep and any trouble falling or staying asleep. Various brain imaging techniques were used to measure the beta-amyloid deposition in their brains.
The researchers report that the results of this study were consistent with those from animal research in which sleep deprivation increased interstitial fluid beta-amyloid levels. They note that this could have a tremendous impact on public health as AD is the most common form of dementia and almost half of older adults with the disorder report insomnia based symptoms. They say that â€œbecause late-life sleep disturbance can be treated, interventions to improve sleep or maintain healthy sleep among older adults may help prevent or slow AD to the extent that poor sleep promotes AD onset and progression.
The emotional, financial and logistical costs of AD are significant and will only increase as our population ages and more people are diagnosed. Further testing and research regarding sleep and its connection to AD continue to be conducted. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund of Wellesley Hills, MA, dedicated to ending Alzheimer’s Disease, is currently funding a proposal on this subject.